Educate with artwork

We expect our educational environments to inspire and motivate, but are these learning spaces doing just the opposite?

By Lydia Swinton, co-director Fawn Art Consultancy

Uninspiring teaching rooms and corridors are still the reality in many educational institutions today, which may in turn have a negative impact on students’ ability to learn.

Many universities are proposing positive changes in the next ten years; for example University of Swansea’s new multimillion-pound science and innovation campus, due for completion in 2015 and Dundee University’s College of Life Sciences £12.5m expansion to mention just two. This focus on demand for sustainability and well-designed learning spaces is obviously money well spent, but these investments are expensive and take years to complete.

One immediate and cost-effective solution to tackling lifeless learning environments is through artwork. Our surroundings affect our mood and effectiveness and artwork has many positive benefits, not just for decoration.

First impressions count when you’re walking into a building; these spilt second judgements can make organisations stand out from the crowd. What the viewer first sees informs them about who you are and want values you have. A few carefully placed pieces of art can bring an entrance way or corridor to life, transforming the space into an engaging place to walk through.

For students experiencing their first time living away from home in an unfamiliar city, university artwork can help to play an important role in bringing a sense of calm and positivity to an environment they aren’t fully adjusted to. This can also help regular students and prepare them to be focused and engaged in the classroom.

Fawn Art Consultancy, who have worked closely with King’s College London over the past three years, carefully choose key spots for the placement of artwork as part of their art programme which has been rolled out over three campuses. One aim was to provide talking point pieces of art for students to connect with in locations such as outside lecture theatres or in social spaces. King’s College London had requested themed artwork that had links to their central London location and diverse range of subject matters. A custom-made word search and colourful screenprints of London landmarks are just two examples of the integration of over 150 pieces throughout the universities buildings. The artwork humanises social spaces and celebrates the university’s location. Robert Hall, director of library services at King’s College London said: “Fawn Art Consultancy have delivered solutions in an intelligent and timely way, working around the demands of busy spaces. Our staff and students have been enthusiastic about the art which now adds a much needed extra dimension to their study spaces.”

Artwork also acts as a landmark to aid way-finding in a university. ‘Meet me by the colourful map of London’ sounds far more appealing than “I’ll wait by the toilets at the end of the corridor’. Just as design features and colour schemes are used to individualise departments within a university, so too can artwork help students navigate around the building. In turn this visually softens the harsh signage we see on a day-to-day basis in these environments.

Not only have art schemes become an integral part of building design and decoration, a lot can be said for large institutions supporting local British artists, which plays an important role in raising awareness of the country’s artistic talent. By using an art consultant to create site-specific artwork schemes, it provides organisations with a stress-free way to buy art, whilst having the benefit of their trained eye in selecting art of the highest quality and installing the artwork to create maximum impact all within your University’s health and safety regulations. This can all be achieved within months, with the benefits lasting for years.






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