For those of us who like a party, it’s going to be hard to beat MECAmorphosis.

Instead of its annual Art Honors fundraising banquet, Maine College of Art is hosting an event on Thursday designed to bring the Maine art community, as well as the community at large, into its downtown home in the former Porteous department store on Congress Street.

For the better part of the past decade, MECA has been picking away at a building-wide renovation. That work is finally complete, and it wants to show it off.

“This is our celebration of the completion of a vision,” said Tim Kane, the school’s vice president for advancement and college relations. “We have relocated and consolidated all of our facilities in one central location. To show it off, we want to invite the public in to see the space.”

It’s important to note that MECAmorphosis has a fundraising component. The school is selling tickets to the event for $50, although degree-holding alumni can buy tickets for $35.

It should be a blast. The folks at MECA know how to throw a party, and MECAmorphosis is definitely a party. There will be five floors of cocktails, some great food, and lots of music. Artists will be taking photos and making drawings. In addition, the school is showing senior thesis artwork and the work of master of fine arts students.

In all, that adds up 125,000 square feet of good times.

The Porteous Building renovation began back in the 1990s, when former MECA President Roger Gilmore began the process of moving MECA from its home in the Baxter library on upper Congress Street to Porteous.

For many years, MECA continued its operations in at least three different buildings around town, but the goal was always to bring everything together at Porteous. It’s taken a long time to achieve Gilmore’s vision, Kane noted.

Sure, it requires a ticket to get in, but Thursday’s party is the best chance for people to see what Porteous has become. Typically, most people’s exposure to MECA consists of stepping around the students congregating on the sidewalk in front of the Porteous Building or attending exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA.

MECAmorphosis provides an opportunity to stroll the building, visit the studios and wander the hallways from top to bottom.

“To show it off, we want to invite the public in to see the place. We don’t normally open our doors in this way. We typically have prescribed events, usually at the ICA,” Kane said. “Even First Friday is largely only on the first floor or maybe the second floor. We normally do not open the doors to the upper floors.”

MECA’s completion of the Porteous consolidation occurred last summer, when the new media, graphic design and photo departments moved into the third floor from the Baxter building.

On the fourth floor, MECA recently completed the construction of a wet photography lab — an increasingly uncommon development (pardon the pun) in this age of digital photography.

The darkroom and lab is named in honor of Verner Reed, a famous New England-based photographer who lived in Falmouth and died in 2006. On Thursday, MECA will dedicate its new admissions suite on the Free Street side of Porteous in honor of Gilmore.

“If not for Roger and his vision, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Kane said.

Those dedication ceremonies begin at 5 p.m., before the party at 6 p.m.

For now, MECA is prepared to rest, Kane said. A new president, Donald Tuski, takes over on July 1, and where the school goes from here will largely be up to Tuski and the board.

But for now, the renovation and consolidation are complete.

“I would never say we are done. No college campus is ever done,” Kane said. “But the vision is complete, and we want to celebrate.”

Let the party begin.



Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]


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