“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. 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, and professional internship opportunities.


The mission of the MFA program at ACM 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 art 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

ACM's School of Art 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, and field study. 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.  

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.

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


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 during the second year of the program to oversee and guide the student. Advisor meetings are scheduled several 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 on 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 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 studies in 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 is offered to the MFA students. Students choose two art history 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. Course options include the following:

Art History

ART/ARH 401: Introduction to Art History: Prehistory to Modern Times
ARC/ARH 512: European & Mediterranean Prehistoric Art and Archaeology
ARC/ARH 513: Powers and Identities in the Ancient Mediterranean
ART/ARH 520: Picasso, Matisse, and the Mediterranean
ARC/ARH 531: Archaeology, Art, and Architecture of Ancient Provence (in French)
ART/ARH 540: The Mediterranean and Beyond: Cross-Cultural Studies in Medieval Art and Architecture
ART/ARH 541: Islamic Art and Architecture in Europe
ART/ARH 542: Artistic Encounters in the Mediterranean: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in European Art
ART/ARH 563: Baroque Art and Architecture
ART/ARH 581: The XIXth Century and French Impressionism
ART/ARH 582: Cézanne and Van Gogh

Museum Studies

MSM/ARH 558: Curating Arts in the 21st Century: Challenges and Practices
MSM/ARH 591: Museums Today: Mission and Challenges (Museology Seminar)
MSM/ARH 537: History of Museums: The Memory of Mankind from Prehistory to Nowadays

Electives (3 credits)

Although most studio work will be in conjunction with the student’s concentration, students must choose one studio art elective at the graduate level that is not in their major field of study,

Graduate Seminar (3 credits)

A graduate seminar required by first-year students of fine art. The purpose of this course is to bring the students into contact with a range of working methods and artistic viewpoints as a supplement to their painting practice. This course is divided into five parts and will set out to clarify basic questions about what constitutes art and what does not. The students’ practice is supported by independent research, close readings, and workshops from a diverse collection of local artists.

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 Term Seminar with a study proposal indicating why and how the field study relates to their thesis proposal. Currently offered J-Term Seminars may be found here.

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, ACM provides independent studio space to all students. 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 schedules 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)
  • Graduate Seminar - 3 credits
  • Electives - 3 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 program-related questions, please contact Dr. Yumna Masarwa, Director of the ACM School of Art.

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