Markeith Chavous, media artist and UMF alumni from the class of 2011. Submitted Photo

FARMINGTON — Fresh off the the 2023 debut of “the waves and the mantram, part 1” in Scotland at the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival’s Exhibitions Programme, Media Artist Markeith Chavous was considering his options for the location of his installation’s North American debut.

He knew he wanted it to be in New England, so that those closely associated with the project could view it, and he had three locations in mind.

Of the three locations, the University of Maine At Farmington was the first to immediately get back to him. It was a fitting location for his installation not only as a UMF graduate, but Chavous shared that his time in Farmington shifted his artistic trajectory onto the path that led to this installation.

“It actually means a lot that it’s in Farmington,” Chavous shared with The Franklin Journal in a phone interview. “Those that originally supported me when I made the jump into video get to see it and appreciate it.”

Having graduated from UMF in 2011 with a degree in art, Chavous took a trip down memory lane when his installation opened to the public on Thursday, Jan. 25.

“When I was driving through [Farmington] for the first time in over a decade, I was almost tearing up, you know,” Chavous said. “So many memories just came flooding back.”



Chavous was born in Darby, Pennsylvania, but moved around quite a bit in the southwest Philadelphia area. “We moved around quite a lot,” he said. “My mom is a nurse’s assistant, and she also sings, and we didn’t have much at all. We were actually quite poor, so we went from place to place, but overall, we managed.”

In his teens, Chavous developed his initial interest with art when an art teacher recognized his talents and tried to set him on that path.

“Before then, I didn’t really know much of what I was really interested in,” he said. “I liked to read a lot, and I thought that I was kind of interested in writing, but it didn’t stick.

“Like I started trying to write a novel when I was a kid,” Chavous shared with a chuckle. “It didn’t go far, but when I started drawing, which was like 15, there was an art teacher who really encouraged me, and she was determined that I was going to go to art school.”

Chavous’ first initial drawings were inspired by anime, but he quickly shifted away from that to people and landscapes. From there, he began sketching apples and other items, then moved onto self-portraits and eventually abstraction as he continued to build his portfolio.


His efforts and talents eventually led him to the Maryland Institute College of Art [MICA], where he studied painting for a year before having to drop out to focus on work and other aspects of his life stemming from his past.

University of Maine at Farmington Graduate Markeith Chavous presents his unique art exhibit titled “the waves and the mantram, part 1.” Seen here on Tuesday, Feb. 6, the installation utilizes three projectors with spoken word portions that were written, filmed and produced by Chavous, who is a media artist and a poet. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal


After leaving MICA, Chavous worked full time as the manager of a small, independent movie theater. “Little did I know that this was, you know, all related,” he said. “I had no inkling that I was ever going to get into video or film. I was just a painter.”

Chavous’ work schedule suited his interest, as he was able to work four long work days a week, leaving three days open to paint.

During this time, he became more interested in the “language of painting”, studying the history of artist like Willem de Kooning, Edgar Degas and Seison Maeda while he continued with his own work with drawing and painting.

After three years, Chavous relocated to Brooklyn where he continued to draw and paint, but found himself dulled by life in the big city. Having spent his whole life in big cities, he started looking for places to make a change. In his own words, he wanted to try “something completely different, completely new.”


“So one day,” he said. “I was just visiting a friend in upstate New York, and I was looking at a map and I was just like, ‘Maine looks interesting’.”

After talking with his mother about the idea of moving to Maine and finding a friend of their family that lived in the state, Chavous took a trip up to Maine and moved to Eastport half a year later after his initial trip.

During this time, he shifted careers again and began working in a crisis unit, a job that still allowed him time to paint similar to his schedule in Baltimore. His family friend Reggie, who would go on to be the subject for his installation “the waves and the mantram, part 1”, had children that were starting college and that is when the idea of going back to school piqued Chavous’ interest.

“And that’s how I ended up at UMF,” he said.

 Style shift

Chavous picked up where he left off with his study of art and painting, but during his final year at UMF, something that he referred to as both “fortunate and unfortunate” happened to him.


“I began to dry up as far as painting,” he shared. “It became harder and harder to do it. I used to look at it like the medium was tied to my past and I was finally starting to deal with that stuff. Because of it, I couldn’t use the medium anymore. It started to become painful.

“I was like, ‘oh my god, this is awful. I don’t know what I’m gonna do’,” he said. “I’m supposed to be preparing for a show, and I can’t even do the thing that I’m here to do. So, I went home that night, and I had a dream and that dream was like a vision for a video.”

Chavous woke the next morning and decided to give it a go, despite never working with video before in his life. He went to Professor of Art Dawn Nye, who gave him the run down on how to make a video and Chavous took it from there. “I haven’t stopped since, and it’s been 15 years.”

With a new medium, Chavous took the opportunity to explore other aspects of himself during his final year at UMF.

“Time based medium was more culminative for me, meaning that I can combine all of my perceptions and all of my interests,” Chavous said, “but primarily, it was like a spiritual process. During that year at Farmington, I also began my own inquiries and studies into different religions and spiritual texts in my own practice.

“It’s often something that eludes verbalization and pinning it down, but you can allude to it,” he said. “[Video] basically encompasses all of my perception and expresses what I couldn’t with one medium alone.



Students and members of the public sit and observe “the waves and the mantram, part 1” by UMF graduate Markeith Chavous. Chavous told The Franklin Journal the installation motivated the students with many asking him if he could mentor them. Submitted Photo

Chavous continued to grow and take his arts to new heights. After earning his MFA in Film & Video from the California Institute of the Arts in 2014, Chavous began work on “the waves and the mantram, part 1.”

The installation features shots from Vermont and Maine, along with poetry written by Chavous.

The installation made it’s international debut at the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival’s Exhibitions Programme in Scotland, where Chavous was able to attend the festival and see the exhibition in person. After Scotland, the installation was subsequently exhibited in South Korea at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art [CICA] as part of the Experimental Film & Video 2023 exhibition.

Chavous wasn’t able to attend, but began to set his sights on the installation’s North American debut. The first of three installments, Chavous said the next parts would focus on his upbringing in Pennsylvania as well as his time in Los Angeles. Until then, he shared that he was planning on taking a small break to focus on writing, but the reception of his installation among the student body has been stellar according to him.

“I appreciate the reception of the piece and I appreciate the students, because at the Q&A, what kind of struck me was that it resonated with the students,” he said. “I’ve had a couple ask me to be a mentor to them or teach them. I hope that I pushed them to pursue it more seriously or think that it can be done.”

The installation is on display at the Emery Community Arts Center on the UMF campus until Thursday, March 7. The installation is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m.

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