March 6, 2017

MECA names its next president

Courtesy / Maine College of Art
Courtesy / Maine College of Art
Laura Freid is the 18th president of Maine College of Arts in Portland. She will take office on or before July 1, replacing interim President Stuart Kestenbaum.

Laura Freid, who most recently was CEO and executive director of The Silkroad Project, was named Saturday as the 18th president of Maine College of Arts.

She will take office on or before July 1, replacing interim President Stuart Kestenbaum.

Kestenbaum, Maine's poet laureate and former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts, stepped in as MECA's leader last August after the departure of Don Tuski, who resigned to take the post of president at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Ore.

In addition to her work with The Silkroad Project, a global cultural arts organization founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and affiliated with Harvard University, Freid's leadership experience includes serving as executive vice president for public affairs and university relations at Brown University and also as chief communications officer at Harvard, where she was publisher of Harvard Magazine.

Brian Wilk, incoming chairman of MECA's board of trustees and vice president of Hasbro Toys, said the search process benefited from an "impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world."

"It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education," he said in the release announcing Freid's appointment. "Our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth."

As CEO and executive director of the Silkroad Project, Freid initiated the organization's ongoing multi-year affiliation with Harvard, established a five-year partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design and created the first joint venture with the Harvard Business School. She resigned from Silkroad in October.

She also served as executive producer of the internationally-acclaimed feature documentary "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble."

In a written statement accompanying the release announcing her appointment, Freid said she was eager to assume MECA's leadership, characterizing the college and Portland as "an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship."

"In times as rife with international, political and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative," she said. "Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission."


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