Mark Pettegrow, recent Littlefield Gallery Sculptor-in-Residence, donates sculpture to Lord Hall

The University of Maine’s Department of Art’s Littlefield Gallery Sculptor-in-Residence Program has been bringing renowned and talented artists to Orono to engage with students since 2015, thanks to the passionate patronage of Kelly and Jane Littlefield, owners of the Winter Harbor art gallery after which the program is named.

Mark Pettegrow, sculptor and UMaine alum, was 2022’s Sculptor-in-Residence, sharing his years of artistic experience with the student body. Like other previous guest artists, he also shared something more physically permanent with UMaine. Pettegrow’s sculpture Tidal Crest has been installed in Lord Hall. The piece is part of an ongoing series by Pettegrow – one on which he has been working for many years.

Here’s a description of the series from Pettegrow’s website:

“The Tidal series began after I started spending more time in Maine and set up a studio there. My beloved and very large greyhound Fergus requires quite a bit of exercise daily. While walking on Goose Rocks Beach with him every morning, I am struck with how constantly this special place changes. Each tide, every wind and current carve the sand into new patterns and designs, continually returning and washing away each night. The tide’s cycles, with their repetitions and effects — both subtle and sometimes fantastic, are a constant source of inspiration.”

This generous donation is a tangible representation of the Sculptor-in-Residence Program, but the benefits to the students of engaging with this level of professional artist are so significant as to be almost immeasurable.

“Having high-caliber professional artists visit our students in the studio classrooms is a special opportunity,” said Justin Wolff, professor of art history and chair of the Department of Art. “The artists offer so much to the students, from offering demonstrations of various materials and techniques to critiquing student work. It’s especially instructive, and refreshing, for the students to hear a different voice and learn from a successful artist with real world experience.”

Wolff also spoke to how these artists help students learn about so many aspects of the artistic realm, from technical skills to the challenges that come with making a living in the field. The sculptors who come to UMaine to participate in this program have lived the experience to which many of these students aspire. They have innovated new creative and technical solutions to various challenges. They have learned to deal with the many different individuals and institutions that relate to the economics of artistic practice – patrons, galleries, museums and the like. And they have visited with other colleges and universities to share their work and knowledge.

The artists who come to campus for this program are exceptional creators, often in high demand. Mark Pettegrow is no exception.

“Getting Mark to join us as a Sculptor-in-Residence was a coup for the department,” Wolff said. “He is a very busy and sought-after artist, who works on large, complex commissions. Having someone with such a reputation join us raises the visibility and prestige of the program.

“More important, perhaps, Mark is a UMaine alum who majored in art and was an honors student,” continued Wolff. “He is intimately familiar with the history of the Department of Art and had great affection for many of its original faculty members. So Mark cares about the department and its students; he is committed to its continued success and believes that its students can achieve excellence. He is also very smart and funny, so it was especially rewarding to welcome him back to campus and forge a new chapter in the Mark Pettegrow-UMaine connection.”

To have artists be so generous with their knowledge and experience is rewarding to students, but with the donation of Tidal Crest, Mark Pettegrow has gone above and beyond in sharing his practice with the university’s burgeoning artists.

“Well, Mark’s work is in high demand, so the department is enormously grateful for his generous donation of a substantial piece from his Tidal series,” Wolff said. “Moreover, the series was inspired by his impressions of the changing tides while walking in Maine beaches, so it has a local relevance. I see the piece as relevant as well to the educational mission of the university — which is all about the ebb and flow of ideas and the coming and going of students.

“On a more practical level, Lord Hall is the home of the Department of Art and it’s important that the building showcase art by students, faculty, and alumni. Tidal Crest is a standout piece that embodies the excellence of our academic programs.”

The Littlefield Gallery Sculptor-in-Residence Program has been uplifting young artists for nearly a decade now. Mark Pettegrow embodies the many ways in which it does so.