Raina Belleau | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Raina Belleau

Raina Belleau with one of her sculptures


BFA in Sculpture
Current Career
Artist Assistant to Mark Dion
Providence, Rhode Island

What is your favorite thing about your work?

I get to use my skills as a sculptor, especially realism techniques I don't always choose to use in my own work but that I love to do. I also get sent on assignment to different countries for special projects which is amazing! The work I do for a living doesn't always have my name on it but it gets seen around the world.

Why did you choose to major in sculpture? 

I was a weirdo and declared my major the second week of my first semester. I always knew I wanted to do sculpture. It's just the way my brain is wired. I really enjoyed the wide variety of materials and techniques we explored in my sculpture classes. It wasn't until grad school where I met a whole new group of sculptors that I really appreciated the solid technical background MCAD gave me. I always know I can pull something like welding, casting, or wood techniques out of my back pocket whenever I need to. MCAD made me super versatile. 

Favorite place on campus? Off campus?

I was such a studio hermit that I have to say my favorite place was my studio. But I really should have spent more time in the library! When I'm in town, I still always go to Jasmine Deli after a visit to the Minneapolis Institue of Art which I think a ton of MCAD kids take for granted because it's pretty much on campus.

Did MCAD prepare you for life after graduation?

Everyone complained about Professional Practice and it was rumored that no one wanted to teach it, but wow did that class teach me some stuff about real life art stuff! Between school-wide juried shows, the Art Sale, the Merit Scholarship competitions, and that class, I came out knowing how to get my work seen and how to apply and win grants and fellowships. Not to mention that I can do my own business taxes, take good photos of my work in a pinch, and have a great network of classmates and professors.

Best thing you ever got on the free shelf?

There was a red vintage dress with a broken zipper that I fixed and wore way too much. I still have it. I don't think I'll ever get rid of it. I wish every art school/studio building had a free shelf!

What was your experience with MCAD's facilities? Did you have a personal studio? How was that? 

I loved my studio at MCAD. I took a summer course and over the summer weaseled my way into two abutted studios. When my senior year started no one was set to fill that second studio area so I kept it, much to the jealousy of my peers. But they got over it when they saw I was making a life-size black bear; I used every inch of that studio! I don't think I'll ever find facilities as great as MCAD's. The 3D Shop is a dream: clean, spacious, and well organized. But the best thing is being able to check out hall and wall space throughout the school. I've never heard about that opportunity anywhere else but it was the best idea I think anyone has ever had. No fighting over crit space (if you're organized, that is) and you could have your own show if you wanted!

How do you find inspiration when you are feeling stuck?

I have a backlog of ideas! I have to tape up pages from finished sketchbooks on my studio walls so I don't forget things. My secret to not getting stuck in the first place is to stay curious and fascinated with the world and to have the confidence to nerd out about stuff that might not be cool until you filter it through your art brain.

Current obsession?

My current obsession is my pet lovebird Percy. And I'll watch anything narrated by David Attenbourgh. 

What advice do you have for art and design students?

Always trust your gut.

Where did you intern and can you briefly describe the experience?

I interned for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden through the Walker Art Center. That was a funny job! I was basically the sole caretaker due to the rampant budget cuts of the Great Recession. But it did later get me many a part-time job, both at the Walker and beyond. And I got to drive this souped-up golf cart around outside all summer. My claim to intern fame is that I've washed and waxed the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry!

How has your work evolved since leaving MCAD? 

I was so Type A at MCAD! I've learned to be looser and more impulsive and oddly more compulsive in my work. I no longer work from a fixed image in my head or sketchbook and allow myself more wiggle room to get weird and to surprise myself. This has made the work more raw, more colorful, and sometimes darker and more humorous.

Name your one biggest takeaway from MCAD?

Oh, man, where to start! I guess, keep working, stay alert to the things happening around you, and take advantage of every situation. That's the unspoken lesson I learned from my MCAD experience and it seems to be working!