Legislation submitted by Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, that would continue Maine Media College’s ability to confer the degree of master of fine arts was approved by a unanimous vote Jan. 6 by the Legislature’s Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

In 2009 Welsh sponsored legislation to authorize Maine Media College (formerly Rockport College) to confer the master of fine arts degree until June 30, 2010. The legislation approved by the committee, LD 1506, would grant the college the authority to continue to grant the degree.

“Maine Media College is a valuable asset to our state and to our Midcoast community,” said Welsh in a news release. “It brings students and faculty from across the country and around the world to study in Rockport, Maine. It is well known in the film, photography and multi-media communities as a highly respected place of learning and a place to further develop and refine one’s inspiration, art and abilities.”

Sen. Chris Rector, R-Knox, provided testimony to the committee in favor of the legislation. Rector, a co-sponsor of the bill, informed the members of the important role that Maine Media College plays in the community.

Members of the committee heard from Ann Weisleder, chair of the State Board of Education, in support of the bill. Weisleder said Maine Media College had been visited by the State Board of Education’s Review Team and that all standards had been met.

In August 2008, Maine Media Workshops announced a name change for its academic arm, Rockport College, to Maine Media College. The college shares a campus and facilities with Maine Media Workshops and offers professional certificate programs and master’s of fine arts degrees in photography, filmmaking and multimedia.

The Education Committee received testimony in favor of the bill from Charles Altschul, president of Maine Media College. Altschul said Maine Media College is pursing accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. An accreditation team is scheduled to visit the school in April.

“We are optimistic that a positive visit will result in the school becoming only the third institution in the state to receive accreditation from this association,” said Altschul. “We anticipate that accreditation will not only allow for a substantial increase of enrollment from out-of-state students, but will also raise the profile of the school to one of the most respected schools of media arts in the world.”

Altschul described the financial impact of Maine Media College and Maine Media Workshops in the community. He said employment during the summer season is nearly 100 people with over $900,000 of purchases from local merchants. The students and visitors spend an estimated additional $1 million in the Midcoast.

The committee also heard about the accomplishments of recent graduates of the master’s program from Elizabeth Greenberg, dean of Maine Media College. Greenberg provided the committee with testimony from graduate Cig Harvey, assistant professor of the Art Institute of Boston. Harvey’s photographs have been published in The New York Times, New York Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Since graduating from the program she has had solo shows in New York, London, Toronto, Houston and Aspen.

“The rigors of the MFA program taught me the discipline of art in addition to furthering the creative process,” said Harvey. “It gave me great structure and grounding for academia in both the fine art and commercial world of photography. In the last two years, I have been asked to jury national and international shows, speak at undergraduate programs, and attend symposia and panel discussions on contemporary photography. Each and every time I talk about my graduate experience at Maine Media College and how it helped shape me, giving me the tools to become the artist I am today.”

The full House and Senate will consider the bill in the coming weeks. For more information about Maine Media College visit mainemedia.edu.