A new map showcases the work of Maine College of Art and Design students and alumni throughout Portland. Contributed / MECA&D

Two Maine College of Art and Design staff members have created an illustrated map of Portland, spotlighting not only the lively art scene but the college’s contributions to that scene.

The map includes sites of public art and galleries along with shops and restaurants that use logos or brand designs created by the college’s alumni and current students.

Kiana Thayer was the graphic designer of the five-layered, folded map, which was illustrated by Sarah Sawtelle. Both are college alumni.

Sawtelle saw the project as a way “to reengage with the community” and draw attention to the college’s lasting, local work.

That work is often overlooked, said Jacqui Walpole, director of external relations at the college.

“I love how you get to see the hidden gems from the school and the community here,” Walpole said. While the city is often admired for its ambience, people “don’t often think through all the intention behind that. We’re a hub of creativity,” she said.


Most people don’t realize the amount of creative effort that goes into designing brands and logos for local businesses, Walpole said. Branding is a skill that many of the school’s graphic design students hone, which can help to not only guide the physical look of a business, but its social media presence as well, she said. Alumni branding can be found at Rosemont Market and Bakery and the Little Ghost Vintage Shop, for example.

Besides branding, the college alumni’s designs and creations to be found locally include restaurant furniture, bar stools, beer taps, murals, coffee shop mugs and tattoos.

Highlighting public murals and art displays was also important to Sawtelle.

“As much as they are visual landmarks, they’re also emotional and social landmarks,” she said. “They can be really impactful reflections of the arts community.”

Public art can also be overlooked and the map can help prevent that, said Jenny McGee, associate director of the college’s Artists at Work program and alumni relations.

“I think people might forget how much art there is around them and where it’s coming from,” McGee said. “My philosophy is to make art visible … Perhaps you walk past a mural every day and having that exposure might seep in and give you a chance to pay attention to other spaces around you and appreciate art in a way that feels less intimidating than walking into a museum.”


Thayer and Sawtelle’s project was funded by a grant from Maine Office of Tourism and sponsored by University Credit Union.

It was a challenging project, said Thayer, who uses they/them pronouns. Creativity was required to accommodate Sawtelle’s “playful” illustrations.

“I always find it exciting to design something that involves folding,” they said. “It’s a really magical way to guide a viewer through information. It’s definitely a design challenge of how to fit all that content and make it something people want to pick up.”

The map is for everyone, they said, not just those in the art community.

“Because there are so many artists here it’s a nice way to connect with people, and even if you aren’t in the art community, there’s an accessibility to it,” Thayer said.

The map itself should be considered a piece of art, McGee said.

“Sarah’s illustration is so fun that perhaps you want to keep it as a representation of the city and the art here,” McGee said.

Copies will be available at the front desk of the college and distributed around town by the Maine Office of Tourism. A digital version is available via Google Maps with additional sites of work created by artists and designers not associated with the college. The online map can be found at bit.ly/3vSb2N7.

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