The University of Maine community joins with students, alumni, faculty and staff of the university’s arts and intermediation programs in mourning the passing of Professor Owen Smith. Smith died on October 14 at the age of 63.
Smith joined the Faculty of the Department of Arts in 1991. During his 30-year career at UMaine, he inspired countless undergraduate and graduate students with his teaching and creative projects, and it has pushed traditional institutional boundaries to create new innovative programs and initiatives. Smith was an internationally respected scholar of Fluxus art forms; author of the founding text on Fluxus, “Fluxus: The History of An Attitude” (1998); and a renowned artist working in the Fluxus tradition. Among his many awards, Smith received the Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award from UMaine in 2000 and the Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award in 2009.
Through Smith’s vision and leadership, UMaine launched an experimental interdisciplinary program in 2003 focused on new forms of creative expression and interdisciplinary research. Six years later, intermedia was approved as a degree program. The first batch of students graduated IMFA – Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in intermedia – and presented the inaugural exhibition “Without Borders” in 2010 at the Lord Hall Gallery. Smith was professor of intermedia and founding director of the IMFA program and the Center for Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC).
Colleagues remember Smith as innovative and unconventional, whose “contributions to UMaine are undeniable.” He developed the vision of an interdisciplinary hybrid program, a practice-based research model that has pushed the boundaries of creative production. Smith also encouraged a way of creating and “being in the world” that allowed students to continually expand their practice and form an inclusive community. Students remember him as a gift, a source of inspiration and a “life changing” effect on them as individuals and as artists.
Smith was always willing to take risks and rethink, and no project was too big – the cornerstone of UMaine’s intermedia philosophy. He has encouraged and mentored students to find their voice and to think deeply and differently, and is committed to applying best practices in teaching, learning and mentoring.
Most recently, Owen led an initiative to create the Graduate Certificate Program, Arts and Humanities in Medicine, in collaboration with Northern Light Health Eastern Maine Medical Center, integrating the humanities and the medical arts to explore creative approaches to health and wellness.
Smith is survived by his wife Krista Molnar Smith, his daughter Mary and three grandchildren.
To honor Smith, the intermedia community plans to create a memorial garden and will host an informal Fluxus event at 3 p.m. on October 23 in front of IMRC.