Professor of Intermedia Owen Smith passes away

The University of Maine community joins students, alumni, faculty, and staff of the university’s art and intermedia programs in mourning the passing of professor Owen Smith. Smith passed away on Oct. 14 at the age of 63.

Smith joined the Department of Art faculty in 1991. In his 30-year UMaine career, he inspired countless undergraduate and graduate students with his teaching and creative projects, and he pushed traditional institutional boundaries to create innovative new programs and initiatives. Smith was an internationally respected scholar of Fluxus art forms; author of the seminal 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 UMaine’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award 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 cross-disciplinary research. Six years later, intermedia was approved as a degree-granting program. The first class of students completed the IMFA degree and presented the inaugural “Without Borders” exhibition in 2010 in Lord Hall Gallery. Smith was a professor of intermedia and founding director of both the IMFA Program and the Innovative Media Research and Commercialization (IMRC) Center.

Colleagues remember Smith as innovative and unconventional, whose contributions to UMaine are undeniable. He developed the vision for an interdisciplinary hybrid program, a practice-based research model that pushed the boundaries of creative production. Smith also encouraged a way of making and being in the world that allowed students to continually expand their practice and form an inclusive community. Students remember him as giving, inspiring, and having a life-altering effect on them as individuals and artists.

Smith was always willing to take risks and rethink, and no project was too big — the very cornerstone of UMaine’s intermedia philosophy. He encouraged and mentored students to find their voices and think deeply and differently, and was committed to 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 medical arts to explore creative approaches to health and well-being.

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 hold an informal Fluxus event at 3 p.m. on Oct. 23 in front of IMRC.