Designing Visual Arts Learning Spaces

Term: 1 Year: 2018

The Visual Arts offer opportunities to profile learning spaces with a difference; as art educators we have licence to create ambient environments that not only showcase student work but also provide a range of stimuli to provoke responses that are imaginative, informed and unique. 

Successful studio spaces will offer a smorgasbord of delights through an array of visual material and objects of interest. Uplifting environments are not determined by grand and well equipped facilities but rather by the capacity to create energised and lively visual experiences where students are relaxed and inspired, enabling them to ponder possibilities and stretch imaginative processes as ideas emerge, in considered and responsive ways.

Having said that, and considering the infinite possibilities of what designing effective, efficient and engaging learning spaces might be, I would anticipate the following as base-line desirables: interchangeable light levels (both natural and artificial), strategically placed wet and dry areas with easy access to water, storage facilities which provide space for the provision of materials which are utilised on a regular basis, ample pin boards, hanging systems, shelving and/or showcases to maximise the display of student work. 

Synchronising with this is also the capacity to systematically store student work as it is produced, plan drawers or an equivalent flat storage system is ideal, complemented by vertical shelving for folios, visual diaries/portfolios and a range of 2D works. 
With a utopian outlook, I would also advocate direct access to exterior working spaces within a courtyard environment or equivalent that would provide opportunity to exhibit sculpture, murals and a range of experiential and ephemeral artworks. To add further dimension to well-endowed teaching and learning studio spaces would be direct and easy access to digital applications in the form of data projection and opportunity for the generic use of computer aided devices where contemporary technologies can be integrated either specifically or with cross media interventions. 

In order for the brain/body relations to be fully fostered and a culture of creation embedded into the psyche of learners, visual arts spaces need to be designed with an intention to alleviate the mind and transform thinking into alternative realms. The architectural and design focus will be enhancers but primarily it is the interactions within and the arousal of a desire to create which lays the foundation for a culture of creativity, innovation and inspiration.

Margot Anwar 
Head of Learning – Visual Arts
St Leonard’s College, Melbourne

Supporting teachers in creative education