Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s poet laureate and a former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, has been named interim president of the Maine College of Art in Portland.

Don Tuski, who had been the president at MECA for six years, left the school in July to become president at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. During Tuski’s tenure, the school expanded its scope by establishing a music program and by acquiring the Portland-based Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Tuski also helped create an academic major in textile and fashion design.

Kestenbaum said Thursday he believes the school is “in a great place” right now, thanks to recent growth. He hopes to “lend some continuity” until a permanent president is found. His interim role could last until May, Kestenbaum said, based on how long searches like this one usually take.

Kestenbaum is familiar with MECA’s programs, faculty and students, because of his years at Haystack. MECA faculty members have taught at Haystack, and MECA students have taken workshops at Haystack.

Haystack is a crafts school in Deer Isle that hosts students from all over the world for intensive workshops between May and October. Students at Haystack work in wood, glass, ceramics and jewelry, among other fields.

“At both places, what happens in the studios is at the core, making work and focusing on creativity,” Kestenbaum said.


In an announcement posted on the MECA website Thursday, board chair Debbie Reed praised Kestenbaum as an “excellent leader.”

“Stuart’s awareness of the college, his expertise and knowledge of our community and its current needs, combined with his considerable leadership experience will serve us well,” Reed said in the online announcement.

More information on the process for selecting a permanent president will be released in the fall, according to the website.

MECA has an annual operating budget of about $15.5 million and about 500 students. Majors include ceramics, digital media, graphic design, illustration, metal smithing and jewelry, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, textile and fashion design, and woodworking and furniture design. Kestenbaum was director of Haystack for 27 years, retiring in 2015. He was named to a five-year term as the state’s poet laureate in March, replacing Wesley McNair. He said that while working at MECA he will split his time between Portland and Deer Isle.

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