Colby will launch a center for the arts and humanities this fall thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The center will support the curriculum, lectures and events, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

The humanities—art, classics, creative writing, East Asian studies, English, foreign languages, music, philosophy, and theater and dance—are sometimes criticized by those who don’t see practical applications in the workplace. But at Colby the humanities are a critical component of a liberal arts education, helping students to develop analytical and communication skills, creative expression, and an understanding of diversity and the complexity of the human experience.

The center represents an innovative approach to the study of humanities that could serve as a model for other colleges and universities engaged in efforts to bolster the importance and relevance of the arts and humanities. The fruits of such efforts should include “a productive, well-informed citizenry with sophisticated knowledge of how to learn, how to communicate, and how to live rich and meaningful lives,” President William D. Adams wrote in the grant proposal.

Initiatives include those focused on the academic program at Colby as well as others that reach beyond Colby to the local community and the world. Some highlights:

  • Each year the center will organize a series of interdisciplinary events including exhibitions, speakers, performances, and coursework, all focused on a specific theme.
  • A partnership with the Colby College Museum of Art will offer interdisciplinary summer seminars, increase use of the museum as a teaching laboratory, bring scholars-in-residence, and engage faculty and students in curating and mounting exhibitions.
  • The center will support the creation of learning laboratories that will include civic engagement opportunities for students and field experience in cultural centers such as New York and Montreal.
  • Faculty and student-faculty teams will develop partnerships, participate in cross-cultural exchanges, and carry out research projects locally and globally.

While some initiatives will begin in the fall of 2012, others will start in the second year of the grant period.