Maine College of Art adds Sussman to its list of powerful friends

Maine College of Art has been making friends in high places in recent months. In late February, MECA officials and students joined Portland Pirates hockey team CEO Brian Petrovek to celebrate the school’s partnership with the team in developing the Pirates’ 20th anniversary logo.

About two weeks ago, MECA leaders were back out in front of the cameras to announce that wealthy conservationist Roxanne Quimby, who made hundreds of millions selling her Burt’s Bees line of personal care products, will donate $400,000 and her artists’ colony to the college.

S. Donald Sussman

Now, Maine College of Art is announcing plans to honor S. Donald Sussman — billionaire hedge fund manager, big-money Democratic party donor, husband to Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and most recently, 75-percent owner of Maine Today Media — in the school’s 16th annual Art Honors gala celebration on May 8.

At the event Sussman will be given the Award for Leadership in Art Philanthropy, while Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. will take home the Award for Leadership in Community Service in the Arts.

Here’s a little more about why Sussman and Shettleworth are being honored, as described by MECA in an event announcement:

The Award for Leadership in Art Philanthropy goes to S. Donald Sussman for his deep and far reaching support of cultural programs and institutions within Maine and nationally. The honor would allows the College to pay tribute to Sussman’s personal belief that the arts play an important role in our civil society and acknowledges his encouragement of emerging and living artists.

The Award for Leadership in Community Service in the Arts and Education recognizes Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. for his deep and long-term commitment to Maine’s cultural heritage. Shettleworth’s dedication and attention to the preservation of our State’s architecture — firmitas, utilitas, venustas — encompasses the same values embedded in MECA’s curriculum, where students consider the ideas of durability, utility and beauty within their work.

It’s not immediately clear to me whether Sussman’s deep and far reaching support of cultural programs and institutions includes financial backing for MECA in particular, but he’s not a bad guy for an organization to count among its friends.

These days, MECA seems to have a pretty enviable Rolodex. It’s a neat school that by most accounts has played a key role in reviving a long stretch of Congress Street, so if having a lot of friends in high places means MECA’s going to be around a while, that’s hard to complain about.

Here’s a bit more on the May 8 event:

The awards will be presented at the College’s Porteous Building at 522 Congress Street in downtown Portland. The event begins at 5:30pm with the awards ceremony at 6:30 pm. Cocktails and tapas throughout the evening will be accented with live music and the thesis exhibition of graduating students. The Class of 2012 will join the creative black tie party. Support of Art Honors is available at three levels: Patrons at $1,000, Host Committee at $150 and general at $85.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.