AUGUSTA – Bread of Life Ministries’ downtown soup kitchen has a new art gallery and a fresh paint job.

And its shelter on Hospital Street has two fresh architectural designs for a planned expansion.

The work stems from a University of Maine at Augusta academic offering last spring that combined philosophy, art, architecture and community service into one course and kept the same group of students together for the equivalent of three class periods weekly.

The concept — called a cluster course — is one UMA plans to duplicate when its new semester starts in January.

The aim of last spring’s course was to foster connections among academic disciplines, and to link UMA students to a local organization where they could help out, said Peter Precourt, an assistant art professor at UMA.

“having some community project, they’re making contacts in the community,” said Precourt, who taught last spring’s course along with two colleagues. “They’re figuring out how to become engaged, how to present their ideas to the public.”

The professors planning the coming semester’s course also want to foster an outside-the-classroom connection.

The course, called “Prisms on Culture: Art, Community and the American Experience,” includes a spring-break service trip to Nicaragua.

Students and their professors will travel to La Concepci?take Spanish lessons and help out with the construction of a new school. They plan to stay at La Mariposa Spanish School, a lodge whose owner rehabilitates rescue horses and runs an organic farm.

More than 40 students signed up for 15 spots, so that the selection process became a competitive one.

The partnership with Bread of Life has also paid dividends.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” said Dean Lachance, Bread of Life’s executive director.

Students took time to work at the soup kitchen, repaint its walls and design a gallery space, where a UMA student is curating an exhibition set to open during the holiday season.

“It’s really the first art gallery on Water Street in years,” Lachance said. “Now we have a multi-use facility because of this class.”

And when Bread of Life received a grant to purchase the building next to its existing Hospital Street shelter, the UMA students designed the floor plan as part of their class’s architecture element. Ultimately, that building will house a warming area, shelter beds and a life-skills training center.

Outside, the architecture students also worked on plans for a children’s play area and garden.

“The students will actually see all the design work that they did; they’ll be able to see it come to fruition,” Lachance said.