If you live in Portland, you know there’s no shortage of bars and cafés with local art displayed prominently on the walls. Yet despite the city’s ample venues, for most artists the prospect of selling a piece (let alone many) is far from guaranteed.
Then again, Trueline’s Matt Welch isn’t most artists—not with works that include paintings of cow heads, piles of buoys and fish swimming around a stack of suitcases.
But that’s not the only thing that sets Welch’s art apart.
“Portland is a great place for people who want to show their art. There are so many places with spectacular wall space. If you have good work and it’s ready to hang, you can be seen by thousands of people.”
“I’ve actually had really good luck selling my work in coffee shops around town,” Welch says. “Portland is a great place for people who want to show their art. There are so many places with spectacular wall space. If you have good work and it’s ready to hang, you can be seen by thousands of people.”
Even if, it turns out, you came to your craft a little later than most.
Born and raised near Rochester, New York, Welch’s early years revolved around more conventional pursuits: tennis, cross country, music (guitar and steel drums, specifically)—you get the idea.
It was several years after he moved to Boston to attend Babson College—for business, no less—that Welch first became enamored with the world of art, thanks in part to his older sister, who’d made a name for herself as a painter in Beantown.
“I wouldn’t call it a sibling rivalry, but when someone you know well does something interesting, the tendency is to say: ‘Hey, maybe I can do that,’” Welch recalls. “She was a big influence on me.”
After 10 years in Boston working in sales, Welch, then in his early 30s, moved north to Portland in the fall of 1999. Inspired by his newfound calling, he enrolled at Maine College of Art (better known as MECA). Despite being older than most of his classmates, he quickly found a community of friends and fellow creators—even if the work was hardly a cakewalk.
“On one of the early days of drawing class my first semester, the professor put down eight cardboard squares and rectangles on the floor and told everyone to draw them, then did a 10-minute critique on everyone’s work,” Welch remembers. “That’s when I realized there was a lot more to it than meets the eye. At a certain point, you have to have the confidence to bust down the door and say, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Finding New Colors
After four semesters at MECA, Welch took a job teaching art at the Aucocisco School, a coed private school in Cape Elizabeth designed for students with learning challenges. Wanting to put his B.A. to use, he spent the next five years at Prudential Financial and Allstate as a financial advisor, before joining Trueline in January of 2019.
Now a content developer for Vanguard, Welch feels lucky to have once again found a community.
“This is the first company I’ve worked for where I really enjoyed the culture,” Welch says. “It’s just not the same having to work from home [because of COVID]. I can’t wait to be back in the office.”
“This is the first company I’ve worked for where I really enjoyed the culture.”
And not just to take a marker to the sales board, either. Not long after Trueline relocated to its new home—a space once occupied by the MECA-affiliated SALT Institute for Documentary Studies—Welch led efforts to turn a portion of the office into a dedicated art gallery.
Since June of last year, Trueline has hosted almost a dozen First Friday shows, highlighting some of the area’s most prominent and prolific artists.
As for his own passion project, Welch continues to showcase his craft— consisting primarily of still lifes in oil—at venues throughout the city and on his dedicated Facebook page. (Seriously, check out his work. It’s amazing.)
The works he cherishes most, however, are the ones far too big for any canvas to contain.
“My family is everything to me,” says Welch, who lives in Cape Elizabeth with his wife, Andrea, and two children: Henry, 10, and Fiona, 8. “They don’t have the art bug yet, but they are passionate about their own interests right now so maybe they’ll get it later.”
After all, as Welch has proven, it’s never too late to chase your passion.
“You gotta risk it for the biscuit!” he says.
If you could meet one artist, who would it be? Michelangelo or Johnny Cash.
Best artist who no one knows about: Ray Johnson.
Most memorable Trueline art show: The last one we held was pretty good. It featured work by brothers Matt and Pete Chamberlain, Brad Maushart and Rebecca Volynsky.
Favorite work you’ve created: Magic rabbits (series).
Beatles or Stones: Stones, no question.