“What we need is a school of vision.” - Leo Marchutz

A Different Kind of MFA

The American College of the Mediterranean is proud to offer a two-year MFA degree program in painting in Aix-en-Provence, France through its Marchutz School of Fine Arts. The 60-credit program is conducted in English and accepts artists of diverse interests and backgrounds. The program combines daily studio work, seminars, museum studies, field studies throughout Europe, professional internship opportunities, and a low-residency option.


Seeing, synonymous with discovery, recognition, and discernment, is a core value of The Marchutz School of Fine Arts. The mission of the MFA program is to link contemporary artist concerns to a study of the visible world and to give students a cross-cultural viewpoint through extended study in the museums and galleries of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin.

Focus of the MFA Program

  • Emphasizes the combination of studio arts process with liberal arts learning

  • A comparative discipline of observation, perceptual analysis and extensive museum and art historical study

  • Accentuates cross-cultural viewpoints through extended study in the cities, museums and galleries of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin

  • Students form a coherent critical platform and an arts management process by which to present their work

  • Integrated apprenticeship courses in studio art education models

MFA Program Overview

The Marchutz School of Fine Arts offers a two-year MFA degree program with a concentration in Painting. The curriculum combines studio practice with liberal arts investigation, critical analysis, museum study, field study, and the flexibility of low-residency during the third semester. The 60-credit program, conducted in English, in Aix-en-Provence, France, culminates in a Thesis Project which includes a public presentation of an original body of artwork.  

First-year students work on campus in Aix-en-Provence, France, maintaining a daily open studio practice in their chosen discipline, while concurrently developing independent critical, aesthetic, and art historical research with core faculty advisors.  Students are expected to participate in weekly seminars, multi-city field studies, critiques, museum studies, and liberal arts inquiry.

During the second-year, candidates may continue the program in Aix-en-Provence, or take advantage of the program's low-residency option to work off-campus for the fall semester of the second-year. Thesis work can be completed in specific partner locations like Paris, Giverny, New York, Barcelona, and Morocco, or, with approved artist teachers, students may work from their home region through a low-residency format. 

Throughout the program MFA candidates' work is evaluated in peer and faculty critiques as well as by visiting artists. Final evaluation and approval is conducted by the MFA Faculty Committee.

Dean's Statement

After forty years of experience with art education at the undergraduate level, The Marchutz School of Fine Arts is pleased to introduce its unique MFA degree program that combines the liberal arts, studio practice, and field studies.

At Marchutz we have seen, over the past 40 years, fascinating and unique concepts introduced into the artistic dialogue. At the same time we recognize there is a serious lack of rigor and sustained study into the nature of art itself as defined by 35,000 years of examples of it.  The professionalization and commodification of the art market, in tandem with the relentless drumbeat to look forever forward and never back, has perhaps weakened the lineage between the past, the now, and the future in the spheres of art and art education.  Thus, much of the art work we see today is technically brilliant but short-lived, and too often, void of meaning - at The Marchutz School we strive for more.  "I am the primitive of a new art," Cézanne wrote, but he added, "one does not replace the past, one only adds a new link."  The link is of significant importance. 

Located in the south of France, the school is uniquely situated to give artists the means to experiment in the studio and the landscape as well as delve into the minds and works of some of the most renowned and revered masters of painting within the European heritage.

The Marchutz School of Fine Arts graduate program is one in which a sustained effort in front of the visible world, a desire to compare and contrast the art of multiple generations and cultures, and a patient faith in one's own imagination can be supported and nourished.  The apprenticeship model enhances the artists' relationships to works of all generations in such a fashion that their contemporary work, regardless of style or medium, may coincide with the art of the past while simultaneously revealing the uniqueness of identity, time and place.

At The Marchutz School of Fine Arts, we believe such a linkage eventually yields a more powerful expression of significant meaning and a more comprehensive sense of belonging in the world. 

-Alan Roberts
Dean, Marchutz School of Fine Arts


ACM faculty is comprised of experts in their fields. Both academics and professionals in their field, ACM faculty provide the MFA the academic depth and the real-life experience necessary for a well-rounded Fine Arts education.

Chronology of Studies

The Study Outline

Upon acceptance and in consultation with an advisor, MFA students present a two-year study outline accentuating their focus including a studio plan, criticism research, thesis development, and proposed locations for independent study.

Faculty Advisors

Each MFA student is assigned one studio faculty member and one liberal arts faculty member to oversee and guide the student through the two-year study proposal. Advisor meetings are scheduled three times each semester to present studio work, critical studies portfolio, liberal arts portfolio and journals for review. 

Midterm and final grades from professors of content courses will also be reviewed. Continuation in the program is contingent on a positive review from both faculty advisors at the end of each semester. 

Drawing & Painting 
(20 credits)

One of the most important aspects of the program is the accentuation of the two disciplines of drawing and painting  and their inter-relationship. Although students' concentration is in painting, it is imperative that they experiment with both. Drawing I and II are prerequisites for all MFA thesis work. The MFA curriculum is based upon the principle that drawing is at the basis of all good painting. In the first year, all students are required to enroll in Drawing I and II and receive credit before beginning Thesis Practice and Project.

The painting contact courses take place at the Atelier Marchutz, a light-filled space conceived by French architect Fernand Pouillon. Students work together in this common space with painting instructors and are also expected to work independently during the week. Fourteen credits of intensive painting (6 credits during the first year and 8 credits during the second year) are required.

Critical Studies (9 credits)

The Critical Studies courses are seminars in which students and faculty read and discuss criticism essays, artists' writing on art, and philosophical texts. They include field study to museums, artist studios, and galleries. Critical Studies I and II accentuate an overview of critical thought from past generations which will be used as a springboard for Critical Studies III in which a contemporary analysis in conjuncture with each student’s thesis project will culminate in a final 15-page paper to accompany the studio work.

Thesis Practice and Thesis Project (10 credits)

In year two students will, in concert with their faculty advisors, propose and execute a body of work in a purposeful manner which will culminate in a final, public exhibition to be determined and approved by the final exhibition committee.

The Journal

A journal documenting all aspects of the Critical Studies component, Thesis Practice and Thesis Project is a requirement for all students. Part of the final exhibition presentation will consist of a collation and presentation of the journal work covering the entire two-year process. The final journal presented at the final exhibition can and should take a form that is consistent with the underlying theme of the thesis project presentation.

Art History (6 credits)

A range of art history thesis inquiry courses are offered to the MFA student at IAU College. Students choose two inquiry courses that coincide with their study outline and future thesis practice and project. 6 credits (two courses) of Art History Inquiry are required, with each course including a research paper assigned at the graduate level. Inquiries include the following:

ARC 509: Inquiry: Ancient European Art and Archaeology - Development of European Mediterranean societies and civilizations from the arrival of the first humans up to the Roman conquest of the continent. Includes excursions to sites in Provence.

ART 520: Inquiry: Picasso, Matisse, and the Mediterranean - Understanding early 20th century art through an investigation of its sources in Mediterranean myth and reality.

ART 542: Inquiry: European Art – Cross-Cultural Perspectives - This course studies the cross-cultural influences on European art from the 6th to the 20th centuries, looking at Byzantine Art and Italy (Ravenna, Venice and Sicily), Islamic art and Europe (Spain, Sicily and Venice), the Ottomans and Renaissance art, Orientalism in the 19th century, Japanese art and Impressionism, and Cycladic/African art in Modernism. Typically includes an excursion to Paris.

ART 581: Inquiry: The XIXth Century and French Impressionism - Historical and critical analysis of painting in the 19th century with emphasis on the history of Impressionism. Typically includes an excursion to sites in Paris.

ART 582: Inquiry: Cezanne and Van Gogh - An in-depth study of the lives and works of Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. 

Electives (6 credits)

Although most studio work will be in conjunction with the student’s concentration, students must choose two studio art electives at the graduate level from the list below that are not in their major field of study.

ART 551: Contemporary Art and Studio Practice Using a variety of media - drawing, painting, digital imagery, 3D and installation students will explore the notions of the sacred and the taboo in art. The studio course will include an historical and theoretical study of these notions throughout the history of art with a prime focus on the 20th and 21st century.

ART 560: Creative Writing The course focuses on an intensive writing practice and will deconstruct and explicate various elements of the essay, beginning with Montaigne through more modern iterations of the essay (particularly those oriented toward exploring a “new” culture and “self” within an intercultural context).  Furthermore, it will look at how our beliefs and perspectives inform our thinking and writing, and how living within another culture challenges those viewpoints and processes as writers.

ART 565: Photography A specific analysis of the photographic image in reference to the world history of photography to develop students aesthetic judgments concerning their own production. Digital production around various themes required.

ART 580: Arts Management Arts Management requires students of the arts to reflect deeply, think critically, and write extensively about their work and working process in order to strengthen their ability to clearly articulate their ideas, aims and ambitions. The goal of the course is artistic professionalization such that students, upon leaving the MFA program, are more aptly prepared to enter the competitive domain of working artists. To enter this domain means being prepared to seek gallery representation; to secure grant funding, residencies or fellowships; and/or to teach at institutions of higher learning, among other possibilities.

ART 585: Sculpture A studio course conceived to familiarize students with the full range of materials and procedures needed in the process of bronze lost–wax casting as it relates to site-specific monumental scale bronze sculptures. Students will work with plaster, plastilina, clay and wax resulting in a final small model bronze casting at the Fonderie de Coubertin, renowned for its casts of among others, Auguste Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.” 

ART 595: Architecture Design Studio Students will collaborate and learn through hands on designing and creating at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts. Includes active investigations of the architectural traditions of Aix en Provence and the Marchutz campus, conceptual design and on-site, full scale modelling of design solutions. 

Language and Culture (6 credits)

All candidates are required to take at least 6 credits of language and culture courses from the French and Language Department at ACM – French, Spanish, or Arabic. When feasible, students are encouraged however to participate in 12 credits of language and culture. 

Critiques and Visiting Artist Seminars 

In addition to two critiques per semester by faculty members, students participate in Visiting Artist Seminars including local and international visiting artists who are invited to campus to participate in sessions including lectures and critiques of MFA student work. All students participate in at least one seminar.  

January Term Field Study Seminar (3 credits)

All MFA candidates are required to attend one January field study with a study proposal indicating why and how the field study relates to their thesis proposalExamples of different J-terms available are below and include travel to Morocco, Spain, Italy, Greece, England and France. 

Europe and the Islamic World France • Morocco •  Spain

Great Cities Rome • Marseille • Paris • Prague • London

Mediterranean Basin France • Italy • Greece

Shakespeare and the Theatre London • Stratford • Oxford • Dublin • Edinburgh

Low-Residency Off-Campus Course Work

Although students are strongly encouraged to complete the entire program at the Aix campus, students may choose to take up to 15 credit hours off-campus during the fall semester of the second year with the approval of their faculty advisor and the program dean. They may reside at ACM partner sites (pending availability) or return to their home sites in the U.S. The appointed faculty advisors from the Aix campus will coordinate oversight of their independent studies with selected artist-teachers from the specific area.  

Arts Education and Teaching Assistantships

The Marchutz School of Fine Arts unique MFA degree program has embedded within it an apprenticeship component. Through direct observation and assistantship in undergraduate studio courses, candidates may choose to embellish the direction of their independent work. As all studio art faculty know, the process of passing on knowledge is one of the most enriching experiences for their own work. Students who may eventually be interested in teaching can, upon approval, take advantage of this component within their two-year study proposal. 

Students interested in teaching assistantships may replace 3 credit hours of elective credit with a 3-credit teaching assistantship. 

Internship Opportunities

Internships at various museums and galleries are available for students interested in professional opportunities.

Final Exhibition Committee

Each student will present the Final Thesis Project and Critical Studies paper to a committee comprised of the two faculty advisors and two faculty members from the major concentration. Final Exhibition contingent on committee approval. 


Students have 24 hour access to the Atelier Marchutz situated on the renowned route de Tholonet in Aix en Provence.  In year two all students will have independent studio space as well in studios provided by ACM.  Library facilities, lecture halls, classrooms, a student lounge, audio-visual equipment, and computer access are available in one of the three main buildings of ACM situated in the 17th and 18th century center of Aix en Provence.

Sample Curriculum

MFA students have some flexibility in how they structure their schedule across the two years of study. The required credits are as follows:

  • Painting - 14 credits (four studio courses)
  • Drawing - 6 credits (two studio courses)
  • Critical Studies - 9 credits (three seminar courses)
  • Thesis Practice and Thesis Project - 10 credits (two thesis courses)
  • Art History - 6 credits (two inquiry courses)
  • Electives - 6 credits (two studio courses)
  • Language and Culture - 6 credits (two language courses)
  • January Term Traveling Seminar - 3 credits (one traveling seminar course)

    Total = 60 credits

For questions please contact ACM's Office of Admissions at admissions@acmfrance.org or call 1-800-221-2051.