He’s so at ease in the classroom.  His graphic design students listen intently and respond as he walks them through the creative brief.  Who is your audience?  What is your message and brand?  Let’s talk design!

Jim Fitts, Assistant Professor at the Mount Ida School of Design has a special rapport with his students, bringing out the best, challenging them and helping them prepare for their careers.  And he knows a lot about the careers they will enter, since he’s spent his at the highest ranks of the advertising and design industry, rising to the top and creating award-winning product.

“Throughout my career, I have been involved in the creation and production of print and television advertising,” says Fitts, whose first job after earning his B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art was at Wilson Haight and Welch in Hartford, CT.  “That was the largest advertising agency in New England.  It was exciting.”  But, as Fitts was soon to discover, the industry could be volatile. “In just a few years it was gone and I learned the valuable lesson that you’re only as good as your last ad.”

Heading to Massachusetts he landed a job at Hill Holliday, one of the largest and most respected advertising agencies.  “By 29, I was living in London and serving as the creative director for Europe.  I formed a great relationship with Jack Connors and Jay Hill. It was based on the fact they could trust me to deliver.”

After three years he went out on his own as a partner in Clark, Goward, Fitts.  “We were one of about 21 midsize agencies in Massachusetts and made a name for ourselves over the course of a decade.  Then the recession hit around 1991 and then there were three.”

So, off Fitts went to Honolulu to take the position of Senior Vice President, Creative Director at Milici Valenti Gabriel (now MVNP) which was the Hawaii-based office of DDB, the largest advertising agency in the state.  Fitts says Hawaii wasn’t the best match.  “It was too isolated, I don’t surf and I burn easily.”

Fitts returned to the continental US and launched Jim Fitts consulting, where he currently provides a variety of traditional and new media creative and consulting services while at the same time acting for another three years as Vice President Creative for SCIENT, the world’s largest e-business solutions providers.

While churning out award-winning creative, Fitts also fed his passion for photography, amassing a collection of museum quality photographs and teaching at the Center for Digital Arts at Boston University.  In 2006, to feed that passion, he served, for three years as Executive Director of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University.

Fitts says Mount Ida gives him an outlet for everything he has loved throughout his career. “I get to teach, to guide and shape the next generation of graphic designers.  I get to live and work in a creative world and I have the opportunity to curate photography exhibitions, both at Mount Ida and at outside galleries.”

Currently Fitts is co-curating an exhibition on renowned Boston celebrity photographer Roger Farrington at the Panopticon Gallery.  “I had wanted to put on this exhibit for years,” Fitts says.  And, he is also co-curating a show at Mount Ida’s Gallery in the School of Design.  The panAFRICAProject features the work of award-winning Boston-based photographer Lou Jones, who for the past decade has been traveling to the African continent to capture the ‘true Africa’ in photographs.  “The show will change the way you think of Africa.  It will feature Jones’ spectacular photos but it will tell the story of so many of the African countries and people and their success, their entrepreneurial spirit as well as capture the history and traditions.”

And when that is over, what’s next?  For Fitts it’s not knowing what’s around the corner that adds excitement to each day.  And, somewhere down the line there’s a book of photographs on boxing, a project he’s been working on for a long time.  “I used to spend time with my grandfather watching the fights on a tiny black and white TV and going to the matches.  There is so much more that happens as these athletes, both men and women train.  I want to capture that and tell their stories through my photographs.”

The smell of the fabric. The sound it makes.  From childhood, Penney Pinette, adjunct faculty of Fashion Design at Mount Ida College, would create fantasy worlds from the 1950s ball gowns her mother kept in a trunk.

“Mom used to be a dancer and I’d take out the outfits, play with them and turn them inside out to see how they were made.” Pinette was more fascinated by the construction then the costumes.  “The hardware was exposed, the sewing was raw, the materials handmade.  Coming from rural Maine, there weren’t a lot of references for fashion, so I learned on my own.”

Pinette’s love of fashion was enhanced by the cable network’s Elsa Klensch show on style. “I’d beg my parents to let me watch it, then I’d make up fairy tales and fantasies and play alone in the woods, creating my own world.”

When it came time to leave home, Pinette knew she wanted to study and learn more about fabric.  New York was too big and far away, but Mount Ida College was instantly comfortable and she came to campus in 1991 in a 2 + 2 program, earning first an associate’s degree and then continuing on to earn her bachelor’s.

“It’s wonderful to have come full circle and to be teaching at Mount Ida now,” says Pinette, whose gallery show “Shapeshifting” showed in the gallery in the School of Design for two months in 2017. “The show is an historical perspective of how women’s bodies have in different eras, and still are, being manipulated by undergarments.  From corseting in the 19th century to today’s use of Spanx, I’m fascinated about the architecture of women’s clothes.”

Pinette’s research has been extensive and the show highlights the changes, but has not given her a good answer to her most pressing question. “Is this shapeshifting something women have done to themselves, or is it part of a social norm, inflicted by others.”

Pinette plans to continue her study into the history and to look for whether it will change.  From the corsets of the Napoleonic Era that signified status, since a woman had to have attendants to help her dress, launder and care for her garments, to the freedom of the 1940s, necessitated by women’s changing roles in the war, to the cinched waists of the 1950s, fashion continues to change and reflect an era.  Pinette cites the rise of the Barbie doll standard, to shoulder pads in the 80s that signified power, while making the waistline appear smaller, to today’s fashions as a continuum, but with a recurring theme; “Why is the small waist so coveted,” she asks.  “It doesn’t say fertility.  In fact, it may say frail. I plan to look into the aesthetic as captured through art and to see if perhaps the hourglass has been perceived instead as healthy and young.”

And Pinette will continue to teach and design garments.  She currently is working with the Boston Conservatory creating outfits for dance, reveling in the challenge of designing clothing that adapts to the movement of the dance.  “It is very pure,” she says.

January 31, 2017

Dear Students and All Members of the Mount Ida Community:

While we are mindful of the need to protect all Americans from terrorism and the threat of harm, the imposition of ethnic and religious criteria in order to restrict travel to our country and study at our colleges and universities is immoral and flies in the face of what higher education has accomplished in this nation: the creation of inclusive communities for reasoned and thoughtful discourse in all areas of human endeavor and for the benefit of all mankind.

Mount Ida College shall not stand down from our mission.  We shall continue to grow, to be a diverse and vibrant community and a place where students and faculty may voice their ideas and opinions.

In order to accomplish this goal, we shall continue to welcome students, foreign and domestic, and we shall not discriminate on the basis of ethnic, religious, racial or cultural grounds.

For those who are impacted or concerned about the executive order affecting immigration and visa status, staff members in the following offices are here to assist all of our community members:

  1. The Center for Global Connections:  617.928.4624  /  rmelavalin@mountida.edu
  2. The Division of Student Affairs:   617.928.4615   /    ldeveau@mountida.edu
  3.  Campus Counseling:  617.928.4599  /    jgrandquist@mountida.edu
  4. College Chaplain: jranderson@mountida.edu

As we know, this situation is ongoing and ever changing. Please be aware that while you may not feel the need to reach out today, these services are available at any time that you may require them.

I believe I speak for all of us at the College. We will not be intimidated by threats or authoritarian tactics.  We shall stand together to protect our students and our community now and in the future.


Barry Brown