Design to Inspire: The Importance of Art for Higher Education

The All Party Parliamentary Group in 2017 found that 4 out of 5 individuals enjoy greater wellbeing if they participate in arts and culture activities. Another recent study, under Dr Craig Knight of the Identity Realisation Research Group found that during a 12-year study, people work 15% quicker in spaces with art and plants over spaces containing only the things necessary to complete the tasks. This figure doubles to over 30% for the spaces where participants had a say in the curation.

How is this relevant to Higher Education design? Art has proven benefits to wellbeing and productivity. Student choice is vital in the university system and the visual narrative of the buildings they live and work in should be no different. Democratising art and design, for example through the ARTIQ developed ‘Maestro’ voting tool, can empower students to choose what they want to see on their walls, giving them ownership and agency in the space that they will live and study within.

Earlier this year, ARTIQ were brought onboard by architects Manalo & White to develop an art collection to engage and inspire the students within their new residence at UNITE Cowley Halls. Working closely with UNITE, ARTIQ developed a student engagement strategy to celebrate the new art collection and to offer students a unique opportunity to select the art for the space. A social media poll was set up to offer students a choice between four themes of artwork; Photography, Abstract, Illustration and Movie Posters. The chosen artwork was then curated by ARTIQ to be bespoke to the space, ranging from calmer abstract works for study areas, to reflections of play and conversation via bright graphic art and cult film posters in communal spaces.

In addition to engaging students with their university surroundings and enriching wellbeing and productivity, art in a Higher Education setting is also a way to define a university’s brand and culture on a wider scale, turning a campus into a destination. Ranging from Instagrammable mural installations to on-campus life drawing classes, art opens the door to creating a memorable university experience both in and out of the lecture theatre.

Words by Tazie Taysom, Lead Art Consultant, ARTIQ