Careers by Design | New England College

Careers by Design

January 04, 2024
Chases Garage in York, Maine, serves as an artist community founded by Ned Roche and Cait Guinta, two of NEC's BFA graduates.

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of New England College Magazine.

If you talk to Darryl Furtkamp, Associate Dean for the Division of Art and Design, about the nature of art and design students, he will tell you that there is a saying that the artist is a “brilliant misunderstood.” A painter’s clothes may be spattered with paint. An illustrator’s hands may be tinged with ink. They may look the part of bedraggled artists and designers, he says, but they employ far more discipline than meets the eye—particularly when it comes to forging careers in the creative space.

NEC’s art and design students are creating their artistic careers in a variety of ways: working independently or for large firms, teaching, going on to graduate school, working in museums or galleries. “People tend to think that folks with art degrees are not finding employment in the field, and that is not the case,” Furtkamp adds. “It takes a strong work ethic, but our students and graduates who leave NEC with that understanding and the passion to make it? I know very few starving artists out there.”

Still a student, Izzy has gotten a head start on her career by doing art on a volunteer basis. In Community Studio—taught by Ryan O’Rourke, Associate Professor of Illustration—Izzy learned about The Superhero Project, an organization that creates superhero alter egos for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and complex medical needs. O’Rourke, who had previously worked with the organization, asked if student work would be accepted. Izzy was given the opportunity to create the superhero version of Jamie, a young boy with Down Syndrome.

"Super Jamie," an illustration created by Izzy Usle, a 2023 graduate of NEC's Illustration program, for a child with a serious illness

“The Superhero Project sets a high standard for art, which really informed me of what future art directors I work with
will be looking for. Of course, the best part is the gratification of getting to see my art spark joy in Jamie,” Izzy said. “I’m
really lucky to have had this opportunity as a student, and it gives me a great experience to list on my résumé. I would
recommend volunteer art projects to all art students; there are so many benefits.”

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Tim has held various positions in the arts over the years, sometimes two at once, and currently works as a Studio Tech in the Printmaking department at Hamilton College in New York. This role allows him to also assist with gallery installations, and last year, he helped paint theatre sets, which was a new and exciting challenge.

Additionally, he has maintained a painting studio/gallery in his home since 2011. The Utica Comets commissioned Tim to paint a portrait of Gil Seltzer, a well-known architect who designed the Utica Memorial Auditorium and inspired the
design of Madison Square Garden. The painting hangs in the Adirondack Bank Center at Utica Memorial Auditorium.

“It’s difficult to make a living just selling paintings, so you have to get a little creative with using those skills to forge a career,” Tim stated. “I love being an artist. It’s not always easy, but you can find a way. Darryl [Furtkamp] always said that only one in 10 of us would still be painting in 10 years, and I wanted to be that one.”

See Tim’s work:

Ned Roche (BFA in Illustration ’10) and Cait Guinta (BFA in Illustration ’11) opened artist community Chases Garage in York, Maine, in 2013 after fellow alumni helped them build out the space. Housed in a former auto garage, this community offers classes and workshops, ceramics and printmaking studios, individual artist studios, a store, and gallery shows.

Ned Roche, a 2010 graduate of NEC's Illustration BFA program, is the co-founder of Chases Garage, an artist community in York, Maine.

The challenge of learning how to run a business has been overshadowed by the rewards of operating Chases Garage:
interacting with the community, meeting new artists, and giving artists a space to foster their creativity. As co-owner and director, Ned is a part-time artist whose mediums include ceramics, printmaking, and mixed media.

His full-time role is that of locksmith. His parents opened Roche Locksmith 40 years ago, and Ned has been involved in his family’s business his whole life.

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Some art and design students arrive at NEC knowing exactly what they want to do professionally, and others still need to figure that out. Furtkamp explained that all students in the Institute of Art and Design (IAD) at NEC take the same foundations program that includes both analog and digital techniques. “We encourage a cross-disciplinary approach because it’s hard for students to say that one artistic medium is what they want to work in for the rest of their lives.”
This approach gives students a broader base from which to launch their creative careers when they graduate.

Additionally, students gain exposure to successful artists and designers in two meaningful ways. One, all IAD faculty are practicing artists themselves. They lead students by example and through their connections in the field. Two, professional practice courses bring professionals and alumni working in artistic fields around the country to NEC to speak with students and help them understand the career possibilities ahead of them.

“Artistic careers often are not linear paths, like they probably are in other fields. That forces graduates to think entrepreneurially,” Furtkamp added. “But graduates who are disciplined, hardworking, and persistent about putting themselves out there generally find an avenue to support themselves and to advance.”

They keep popping up here and there. In Arms Park in Manchester, at the Storrs Street stairwell in Concord. Murals of bold colors and sharp angles in public spaces. And they are the handiwork of James Chase, Associate Professor at the Institute of Art and Design at NEC.

His murals have been commissioned by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and Manchester’s Committee on Lands and Buildings for the purposes of community art and civic pride.

James Chase, Associate Professor at the Institute of Art and Design at NEC, stands in front of one of his Manchester murals.

Chase is also the founder of Arts Build Community (ABC), an organization that works with communities to create arts-based experiences led by artists, creators, and culture bearers. In August 2022, ABC hosted a mural festival that created three murals around a parking garage in Manchester. The three visiting muralists each had three or four local artists apprenticing under them.

For his artistic efforts within the community, Chase received the Bayberry Financial Services Artrepreneur Award from the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts in May 2022. Introduced in 2020, this annual award recognizes individual artists who collaborate with others or use technology to grow their creative practices and businesses.

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