Exploring the Visual Arts as an Engineer

December 5, 2021
Amélie Lemay

The Princeton academic experience offers a liberal arts education to each student, even those not majoring in the humanities or social sciences. Kevin has a lovely post about what a liberal arts education means to him as an engineer. Like Kevin, I chose Princeton in part because I hoped to gain the technical knowledge needed for my engineering career as well as broaden my perspective on major life themes. I wanted to be trained in the knowledge and skills for environmental research, yet I was also seeking a liberal arts education that would guide my decision-making and problem-solving throughout life. 

Engineering students at Princeton take a writing seminar in their freshman year, and they take a minimum of 7 additional humanities or social science courses before graduation. This averages to one humanities or social science course each semester for engineering students. There is plenty of room for selection with these courses, which can span topics from Happiness and Being Human in Catholic Thought (a philosophy freshman seminar I took last fall) to Mother Tongues (a linguistics freshman seminar I took last spring) to Advanced French (a language class I took last spring).

This fall, I decided to enroll in a visual arts course called Fabric Logics: Textiles as Sculpture. The major units in the course are string art, sewing and weaving. The structure and assignments of the course are very different from what I'm used to: the class meets only once a week, but for a 4-hour class, and instead of being assigned papers or problem sets, I create artworks using the techniques we learn in class. For the sewing unit, our sample project assignment was to create a fruit or a vegetable to practice machine and hand sewing. Please enjoy this image of the banana I made:

large yellow stuffed banana

Being able to explore courses in the humanities and social sciences each semester allows me to pursue other interests and learn techniques and ideas that could one day influence my engineering career. For instance, the weaving technique in Fabric Logics could be similar to a lab procedure I'll need one day, or my studies in French culture could influence the type of environmental solutions I propose for a francophone city. Princeton's liberal arts education prepares me to be a creative and dynamic problem-solver, which I hope will allow me to have the greatest positive impact I can have in the world.