“Hunters Call” Corinne Reid, Digital, 2018 – Accompanying a short story published in Encounters With the Imaginary by Boneshaker Press.
by Joey Phoenix
Many students study art because they want to hone their craft and become experts in their chosen medium(s). Many of them also go into this field with the hopes that they will come out of it years later with the skills needed to be successful working artists.
Montserrat College of Art, based in Beverly, MA, is an art school designed by working artists and creative professionals. It’s a place where, instead of dropping students into cookie-cutter programs, it spends the extra effort to create customized and individual education for all who attend.
Aspiring professional artists choose Montserrat because it cares about its attendees, particularly in helping them become creative professionals who will be active members of their community.
Investing time and energy into developing artists ensures that culture can thrive in any given area. Montserrat College of Art has created a space where young artists can have the resources and support they need to not only create the art that brings them joy, but to have the education necessary to create a living from that as well.
There are five alumni who attended Montserrat and have come out of it as working artists active in their community: Corinne Reid, Maura O’Connor, Jake Cassavoy, Michelle McGaughey, and Joe Banda. Their work is locally celebrated at vendor fairs and art galleries around the area.
Corinne Reid – Illustrator and Designer
Corinne Reid is a published, award-winning Illustrator and designer specializing in publishing, editorial, and fine Art. Delving into the unknown, she uses unconventional imagery to cultivate emotional connections with her audience.
As an illustration student, she remembers Montserrat as having one of the most dedicated Illustration departments she’s ever seen. Not only was she taught concepts and fundamentals like technique and color, but she also learned a few extra things too.
“The small community and professional relationships I developed with my professors gave me some real insight into the working life of an artist,” she recalls. “It inspired me to push my boundaries and strive for a greater level of accomplishment.”
Since graduating, she continues to make and sell her art, exhibiting all over the country and selling at vendor fairs in New England, which continues to create spaces where Corinne’s imaginative work would be welcome. She also works as a Montserrat instructor in the illustration department where she teaches both digital and traditional methods of visual communication.
“The kinds of ideas I feel passionate about are very welcomed among the community, and the opportunities to showcase my work under the guise of themed events are always bringing new and unexpected people to my work,” she says.
“Growing up here, it’s wonderful to think that I am now a part of the culture I was inspired by back when I was a young child.”
Maura O’Connor – Illustrator and Painter
Since graduating from Montserrat in 2015, Maura O’Connor has called the North Shore her home, setting up studio in Beverly’s own Porter Mill Studios on Rantoul Street. In 2018 she illustrated her first children’s book, “Nonna What is St. Peter’s Fiesta”, written by Laura Ventimiglia and published by Buttieri Press. When she’s not illustrating or painting, she also works as an adjunct faculty member in the Illustration Department at Montserrat.
For her, being a student at Montserrat was a comprehensive experience, but the most significant thing she learned was how to prepare to be a working artist.
“There is a true distinction between drawing for fun and making work as a professional, and a huge aspect of that is how you present your work and your brand in person and on social media,” she explains. “Illustration is 40% making work and 60% self-curating.”
In the last few years, she’s taken this advice and run with it, and when she’s not illustrating books or working at Montserrat, she’s often showing her work in exhibitions around the area or selling hand-embellished cards and prints at vendor fairs.
“There is such a great network of support in this community. Everyone I have met is so supportive of each other and passionate about what they do, and it reflects in the way they treat one another,” she describes.
“Being thrust into a post-graduation world where you can struggle to find a community of artists to belong to, I was able to my place among these vendors and creatives,” she adds.
Jake Cassevoy – Printmaker and Visual Artist at Rest Press
Jake Cassevoy studied Printmaking at Montserrat and now uses the skills he learned to work as a full-time screen printer at Rest Press in Beverly, MA. His focus is on woodcarving and the reductive nature of the mark-making process with imagery inspired by different sources like tattooing, skateboarding, punk rock, and folk art. He uses his art and designs to make prints, t-shirts, patches, pins, stickers among other offerings.
For him, his time at Montserrat gave him some ideas about how to take his unique abilities and turn these skills into effective ways to make a living.
“[Montserrat] taught me how to be creative with how I use my skills after school and to always be versatile,” he remembers. “Vendor fairs and engaging with the local scene through art markets and selling through local businesses was a great way for me to gain exposure and get my name out there as an artist.”
Jake started participating in vendor fairs on the North Shore about four years ago, and since then he’s had the opportunity to participate in events all over New England, and these experiences have convinced them that the North Shore vending scene is one of the “most inclusive and respectful” scenes out there.
“No matter what you sell or how long you’ve been participating in vendor fairs, the north shore community has always been very inviting and friendly,” he explains. “You really get to know the other vendors very well, and it fosters a sense of camaraderie that’s really reassuring when you’re stuck running a tent alone for the day.”
Michelle McGaughey – Animator and Illustrator
Michelle McGaughey graduated from Montserrat in 2014 with a B.F.A. in Interactive Media and Animation and with a minor in creative writing. She primarily uses
gouache to create highly detailed paintings that focus around maps, history, and visual
Storytelling, and her imaginative work is accessible for both children and adults. When she’s not attending markets and fairs, she’s working toward publishing picture books for children.
Like other Montserrat alumni, the network of talented artists and creative professionals at Montserrat had an incredible impact on Michelle. In 2017, Michelle returned to Montserrat to work as the Bursar, where she helps students find creative ways to pay their tuition.
“My faculty, peers, and experiences at Montserrat transformed me into a passionate and artist and a crafty problem solver. I was able to pursue many different practices and push my skills and knowledge to places I didn’t think possible,” she recalls.
“Montserrat brought out the best in me and amplified my dedication, discipline, and drive towards a creative life.”
When not working for Montserrat or publishing children’s books, Michelle frequents the local markets of Salem and Beverly.
“The North Shore creative community is very welcoming and open to all artistic expressions,” Michelle describes.
“This community has been one of the best ways of expanding my audience and give me the motivation to constantly evolve my own artistic practice,” she adds. “Their positive words of encouragement and support have reinforced my passion for creative arts.”
North Shore artist Joe Banda studied fine art and illustration at both the Delaware College of Art and Design and Montserrat College of Art and, according to his website, he claims to make art as a reaction to political events, failed social interaction, a love of cats, stress, and finding the humor in the daily struggle of being a human. His work is brightly colored and surreal, drawing inspiration from skate culture, outsider art, and humour artists like Graham Roumieu.
He tends to make art on whatever he can find, whether it’s doodling on napkins or painting on pieces of trash or upcyled acrylic panels. Currently, when he’s not making new work or playing with his cat, he works full time as an industrial painter.
Montserrat, for him, wasn’t a place where he could learn how to make art. He already had an idea about how to do that. Instead, the most important thing he learned while he was there was the importance of connecting with other artists. “Montserrat taught me that networking is the most important tool for furthering your career,” he said.
Since graduating, he’s been spending his time making art and running the vendor circuit North of Boston.
“Vending on the North Shore has always been a fun way to meet fellow artists and members of the community,” he explains. “It makes it easy to make new friends and connect with people in person rather than over social media.”
Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
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