Liberal Arts

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Liberal Arts at MECA provides you with knowledge and ideas to draw from in your artwork. The courses span literature, history, philosophy, the social sciences and the natural sciences. Our students say that the classes have made them more aware: conscious of the impact that world events have on art, and sensitive of how their own past affects their work. The things you learn will help you to form opinions and ideas, and translate them into meaningful art.

Liberal Arts courses required in a BFA degree:
10 courses: EN100 English Composition and EN 105 Introduction to Literature (or EN 110/112 Honors sections), WH, WP, (2)HU/SS, (2) NS, (2) Any LA course. 

Maine College of Art - Liberal Arts from Maine College of Art on Vimeo.

Dana Sawyer

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Professor Sawyer teaches courses in philosophy and world religions, with an emphasis on Asian religions. His areas of expertise and research are Hindu asceticism, Tibetan Buddhism, and the perennial philosophy of Aldous Huxley. In recent years, he has been interested in Westerners who have appropriated Asian philosophical principles, which resulted in a biography of Aldous Huxley (Crossroads, 2002), with a focus on Huxley's spiritual development. He is currently writing the authorized biography of Huston Smith, another perennial philosopher, and SUNY Press will soon release a book of Sawyer's analysis of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his influence on American spirituality. Professor Sawyer also teaches meditation and leads trips to India.

Professor Sawyer has traveled extensively in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Japan. He has lectured at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, Banaras Hindu University, the University of Riga, Latvia, the Huntington Library, and at colleges at conferences throughout the U.S. In August 2005 he was an invited participant at the Oxford Roundtable, Oxford University, England, for a conference on "Government, Education, and Religion."

He recently contributed an essay to Bruce Springsteen and the American Soul: Essays on the Songs and Influence of a Cultural Icon. The essay is an interview with a MECA student. Read it.


Ph.D. candidate, University of Iowa, 1988, Asian Religions and Philosophy
M.A., University of Iowa, 1993, Asian Religions and Philosophy
M.A. University of Hawaii, 1978, Indian Religions and Philosophy
B.A. Western Connecticut State University, 1973, World Literature and Philosophy


What unique skills do your students get?  
All artists need to be able to write clearly and correctly in order to provide galleries, patrons, and museums with artist statements.  Also, artists are continually applying for grants, internships, and residencies, and those who write well will get those opportunities.  Furthermore, an artist is continually doing research, and supplying research to patrons, so having strong research skills, including excellent reading comprehension, depends on a good academic background.  If several artists have tremendous talent, then all such things being equal, the artist who demonstrates good reading and writing ability will get the opportunity in question.

It’s also important for students to understand that as artists they will be implicitly working with the values and viewpoints of their particular culture, but the prerequisite for doing so is understanding their culture.  By taking history courses, literature courses, philosophy courses, etc., students learn the fracture points of conflict and ideology of their culture, empowering them as artists.

And last but not least, artists are people who are required to express themselves, but the prerequisite to expressing yourself is understanding yourself and reading the classics can help in this regard too.

What are some of the classes that are offered in your department? 
Given the interests of students today, along with the need to convey an understanding of what has come before, academic courses at MECA offer a wide range of interesting explorations.  Some of our courses are: “An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Meditation Practices,” “An Introduction to the History of Film,” “The Literature of Madness,” “Sub-Saharan African Art and Shamanism,” “Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Living,” “World Religions,” “Banned Books,” “An Introduction to Anthropology,” “The Sociological Significance of Anime,” “Contemporary Chinese Art,” “Coastal Ecosystems and Biology,” and “Two Hundred Years of Radical Art.”

What  are some of the unique aspects of this program? 
Since all students at MECA are art students, no academic faculty are trying to recruit majors for their departments.  This means that ALL academic faculty are gearing their courses to appeal and apply to the interests of art students.  For interest, one of the most popular academic courses at MECA is a physics course!  Faculty wish to empower young artists by always making the content of their courses clearly relevant to the future careers of artists.  (paragraph)  Because MECA is a small college, academic faculty have time to spend with students who have struggled with academics in the past, helping to bring them to the next level of engagement, sometime working with them one to one.

What are the faculty like? 
The academic faculty at MECA have a range of interests that they’re excited about sharing with students.  One of our literature professors is an authority of Hemingway (and he likes to host poetry slams!), while another has written eight published novels.  Our biology professor loves to kayak, so students in his Coastal Ecosystems end up spending time at the seaside and in kayaks.  We have a Chinese art historian who teaches students to do Chinese brush painting and caligraphy, while another art historian is from Slovenia and has great knowledge of art in Eastern Europe today.  Our philosophy and religion professor, who also teaches meditation and wrote a biography of Aldous Huxley, has been to India 13 times and has traveled widely in Asia.

Maine College of Art • 522 Congress Street • Portland, Maine 04101 • [email protected] • 1.800.699.1509