Education Journal
Volume 4, Issue 3, May 2015, Pages: 98-105

Artists and Higher Education Partnerships: A Living Enquiry

Pam Burnard*, Carol Holliday, Susanne Jasilek, Afrodita Nikolova

Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Email address:

(P. Burnard)
(C. Holliday)
(S. Jasilek)
(A. Nikolova)

To cite this article:

Pam Burnard, Carol Holliday, Susanne Jasilek, Afrodita Nikolova. Artists and Higher Education Partnerships: A Living Enquiry. Education Journal. Vol. 4, No. 3, 2015, pp. 98-105. doi: 10.11648/

Abstract: In this article our central argument is that we should be promoting creative education and that this is a necessity, not an option. How creative education is applied by and to different individuals, groups of people, in different communities, institutions and societies, historically and culturally, is dependent on how the term ‘creativity’ is grounded, politicised, and practised. We are told that we need new thinking in the current world crises of economics and global environmental concerns. We are also told that in education, a new critically reflexive form of creativity is in order to address the task of the age of reconciling the need for a stable, safe, ethical and empathetic world within which a productive, adaptive and innovative workforce can operate. In this article we make a case and provide evidence from several projects for how artists-in-residence transform higher education and provide teachers and learners an excellent resource for exploring a creative paradigm to guide pedagogic practices.

Keywords: Creativity, Artist-In-Residence, Creative Higher Education, Teaching Method Meets Art

1. Introduction

With the current state of the world economy and global environmental concerns, the proliferation of discourses related to creativity are all-pervasive. Globally, in both dominant and emerging educational discourses, artists, artistic work and creative education play an explicit role as economic drivers, representing and shaping the key foci of policy thinking and government initiatives and practice. Policies that generate performance criteria, tests and targets coexist with creativity policies in education. Thus the space of practice and related discourses reflects dilemmas, debates, constraints and tensions which are played out in a variety of ways within and across national and international borders.

The rhetoric of education, artistic and teaching work and creativities in industry has been well documented. The dilemmas thrown up by the tensions between policies and practice and how these tensions play out are imperatives recognised by, and central to, this article. Of particular significance to our argument are: the dominant discourses which position artists work; the increasing dissociation of the arts from the creativity agenda; the need for a reframing of the arts disciplines; the significance of context; and the meditational role of policy on artistic practice and artistic pedagogies in education. These factors have generated a productive tension between the individual arts disciplines and the larger arenas of culture and education at the interface between policy and practice in schools – but not in higher education.

What is commonly reflected in policy discourse and enactments of primary and secondary educational policy and is not reflected in higher education is the need to commit to refining and applying creative pedagogies to prepare creative educators, researchers and workers for the creative knowledge economy. For this, how artistic processes connect to, and impact upon, children and young people is important  [3].

So, in this article, promoting creative education is central and regarded as a necessity, not an option. How creative education is applied by and to different individuals, groups of people in different communities, institutions and societies, historically and culturally, is dependent on how the term ‘creativity’ is grounded, politicised and practised. We are told that we need new thinking in the current world economic crises and global environmental concerns. We are also told that, in education, a new critically reflexive form of creativity is required to address the task of establishing a stable, safe, ethical and empathetic world within which a productive, adaptive and innovative workforce can operate.

However, the difference between arts-centred creativity and the more generalised ‘universal’ notion of what creativity represents is by no means certain. At the forefront of the public agenda of governments and enterprises, as they contemplate the needs of a new millennium, are the complications of contrasting policies, and policy conflict between the aims of education and needs of the workplace. We now see arts educators reaching out to other scholarly disciplines, initially to legitimise and strengthen their position in the school curriculum but also to serve as a key to personalised forms of learning which contribute to the creation of new learning techniques, creating events that celebrate occasions and bring together different elements of the school community.

2. Professional Identities

The presence of art and artists in schools serves not only to develop art(s) education but plays an essential educational role at the heart of learning and artistic work, as a model for educators and of education (e.g. Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Dewey’s Art as Experience). A recurrent theme among artists in residence and teachers is the opportunity to relate otherwise to adults, to relate to another type of adult and, indeed, to a ‘different’ adult. The artist is not a teacher. Artists do not have quite the same expectations from children as teachers; the child and artist construct / inhabit together new ways of understanding the artistic process, ones which are at the basis of artistic work and learning.

As the reader would have already noticed, our observations have mainly led us to the formulation of educational considerations that interest us. For example, co-author, Carol Holliday brings to this paper over twenty years of finding out about people and their lived experiences through working with their images and imaginations, in her role as an arts psychotherapist. She has come to understand that the metaphors and images we use to describe our world and ourselves are profound and authentically communicate something of our internal milieu and how we perceive our lives. Her particular interests are the nature of a therapeutic relationship and working with images in therapy, education and research. As well as working as a psychotherapist she teaches on a university programme that prepares people to work therapeutically with children and adolescents. Her teaching focuses on experiential learning and reflection on that learning; it involves working with a variety of arts media to promote theoretical understanding, acquisition of skills and personal growth. Finally, she is now engaged in creative narrative inquiry as she pursues more formal investigations that involve working with images in research interviews.

Co-author Pam Burnard brings to this paper her experiences as a musician, performer, educator, academic, convener and researcher. One of her passions is researching diverse creativities, and changing the taken-for-granted, everyday politics of what we do in intercultural and interdisciplinary spaces in terms of the entanglements of power, privilege and people [5]. Pam is interested in understanding relational spaces between, and the configuration of education across, all sectors and learning communities related to artistic enquiry.

Co-author Susanne Jasilek, is a contemporary artist whose practice is interdisciplinary. Her current work focuses on experimental video art installations and she has a background in oriental brush painting, printmaking, graphic design and sculpture. She has 20 years experience facilitating creative workshops; during the past 10 years she has worked in a variety of educational settings – from primary to secondary to Masters students – and in the community in a number of roles: artist in residence, artist / mentor to teachers and in collaboration with other artists and teachers in arts organizations.

Her focus is not on the teaching of art techniques in particular but she has found, through her own living enquiry, that, by adopting connections, an open-ended approach to creative expression in educational settings, a space evolves wherein participants are able, through making meaningful visual work, to break out of habitual ways of thinking, to push their own boundaries, to be disrupted, to develop new perspectives and to express themselves in ways that frequently have considerable, and occasionally extraordinary, repercussions. Outcomes are never guaranteed; things go wrong and chaos often ensues before a kind of breakthrough is made. Through this process, and on reflection, new perspectives evolve and new relationships are made to research, areas of interest, study subjects and each other. Susanne is a firm believer in the relevance of and need for arts in education (and everywhere else) – not just in arts subjects, but as an essential life tool.

Co-author Afrodita Nikolova, has experience as a researcher, teacher, lecturer, published and performance poet, creative writing facilitator in a variety of contexts working with participants, from disaffected youth to university students. She’s explored the potential of literary texts in triggering reflection on ethnic tensions in university students. Additionally, as a lecturer, she’s initiated an action research project, Creative English, to enhance creativity through the arts and in collaboration with a visual artist. She uses creative writing in the genres of poetry and short stories, poetry performance and working with activities from the theatre of improvisation. Working in intercultural and diverse contexts, she strives to match the activities to participants’ needs, by means of discovering participants’ key generative themes [4]. Currently, her focus is on the emergent practice of the arts interventions in the criminal justice system, which has been empirically documented in the past decade in the UK [8].

In this paper, we argue that for higher education learning communities and environments to achieve their full potential involves professionals becoming artistic and innovative so as to enhance and highlight processes and practices at the intersection of complex and dynamic interactions between personal, programmatic and situational factors.

3. Productive Tensions in Higher Education

The idea of teaching as art, or the art of teaching, remains subject to the paradigm of education and model of learning in practicing communities. Whether it is a rationale for free expression or artistic activity itself, the perceived normative activity of artistic education is one of the most essential and problematic learning processes in contemporary democracies requiring an understanding of the normal and the rules, of risk-aversion, of performative responsibility, of expectations, of professional identity, of the determination of self-worth and of professional interactions in the matrix of students, colleagues, senior management, and institutional administration.

How individuals continue to develop their sense of professional identity while imagining their future self in a professional context is influenced by a variety of factors. These might include: (a) how closely their previous experiences in similar situations align with their professional context; (b) how they have interpreted and internalized the responses of significant others to their performances during these previous experiences; and (c) how closely their previous experiences relate to the present / current workplace / context. What we are arguing here is the need for challenging the profession to create structures that support the growth and development of artistic practices and partnerships and contribute to the creative professionalism of higher education.

Teaching, like research, is about building and creating knowledge. Working with artists in residence in higher education is crucially important because it is a practice that offers the potential to explore what is hidden or tacit both in ourselves and in the institutional learning culture, thereby allowing the development of new forms of thinking and forms of representation.

4. Defining what is meant by Arts and Arts-Led Initiatives in Higher Education

There is some confusion about the terms arts education, arts in education, artists in education and artistic education. Arts education is often defined as a comprehensive education in either a series or a particular art discipline such as dance, music, drama, film or visual art, to name a few. Arts in education could be when some form of the arts occur in an educational community, although it is generally used to describe teacher / student partnerships with an artist (there are many variations on what kind of partnership this is), most often for the duration of a particular project over a period of weeks and occasionally over an academic year. Artists in education is generally the same as arts in education but always involves a collaboration in some form between one or a number of artists. Artistic education is not a common term and does not necessarily refer to the creation of artworks but rather to a particular artistic perspective utilising the arts to make sense of other subjects.

Arts Education is defined as above – but can an arts education exist in other disciplines (e.g. History / Maths / Politics) so that arts are part of all educators experience and training? Weekly art based art spaces / workshops could co-exist with formal training in all subjects. These could be artist led or led by an individual / educator – someone to find starting points and facilitate. There could be a focus not on art techniques per se but on exploring materials and ideas and expressing issues / attitudes / identities / conflicts to do with the subject of study, the attitude to study, creative problem solving, etc. They could involve all kinds of media including sound, instruments, earth, walks, recording equipment and video. They could involve play. These weekly workshops might reap clarity, result in a beautiful piece or work, help with stepping outside the normal confines or work / study or reveal and resolve problems and issues.

Regarding arts in education, educators have shared in the past that they have limited exposure to the arts in their training – maybe one or two days a year. This must be a factor in their lack of creative confidence to implement creative approaches in education. When encouragement and practical arts based exploration and support are offered by artists (of all disciplines) in the workplace,  teachers are able to adapt their practice, allowing more child-led and creative approaches to develop. Many teachers know how to teach creatively but this is not validated in their training or in their placement or job and for many it is hard to merge creative teaching with the expectations and demands of the national curriculum. Many educators have shared with me their disappointment and frustration at not being able to implement a creative approach to their teaching. (A creative approach does not necessarily mean using art materials and techniques, but is rather a way of thinking and exploring subjects and curriculum experimentally and exploratory with materials and media in a student led environment with the freedom to change direction and introduce materials spontaneously). The places where creative teaching occurs and is supported is where leadership has been 200% behind this and where, as a result of this kind of teaching, SATS results have been higher than expectations, liberating teachers and staff to continue with their methods of working. It is often topic based. At the end of the week teachers have been able to tick off every task on their daily paperwork and more.

4.1. Artistic Education

Artistic education is difficult to find outside art education; it may, however, exist in a different form with a different title: creative education or aesthetic education. What could an artistic education be? Have we had one without realising it? Can we look back retrospectively and say this? Outside of specific art schools and further education establishments, who can say their education was artistic? Perhaps a better term is creative education? Who, outside of arts training at a specific higher education level, can say that they have experienced a creative education? It is an approach that we do not seem to have. Mostly people in other disciplines find this type of education themselves, such as a research scientist who did two degrees in separate places at the same time: Science and Art. He continued to work as a research scientist in Cambridge but practices his art outside of this. I am sure most of his colleagues see it as a ‘hobby’.

However, fusions between arts and science do now occur (so why not in history / geography / maths at a higher education level?) and are accepted in the form of artists in residence who work with scientists and their practice and produce art work or artistic research. However, as presenter, Julian Klein [11}said ‘I am a researcher and from time to time I become artistic’at the Building of Interdisciplinary Across Cultures (BIBAC) conference at Cambridge (‘Research becomes artistic’. He goes on to say that ‘artistic’ is a mode of perception – a kind of encountering the world – and that scientists and artists are perceived as separate. In my experience this division occurs in many disciplines, not just science.

Klein writes, ‘Art and science are not separate domains, but rather two dimensions in the common cultural space. This means research is not then or only artistic, if carried out by artists, but deserves the attribute artistic. Artistic experience is itself a form of reflection. And furthermore, whether implicit or explicit, artistic knowledge is embodied knowledge. The knowledge that artistic research strives for is a felt knowledge’.

4.2. Arts as Knowledge and Arts in and as Research

The arts can be conceived of as forms of knowing. This is not a new idea and this section explores art as knowledge and art in, and as, research. Art is the expression of the imagination in a sensory form (e.g. visual, aural or kinaesthetic) to produce work or artefacts such as paintings, sculptures, musical compositions or dances. It is a way of representing our world. Art is non-verbal; it is beyond the reach of language, and therefore contains the possibility of making accessible areas of experience that are outside of the world of words. Language is a double-edged sword, cleaving a divide between subjective experience that can be communicated in words and subjective experience that cannot. We learn to speak about some things and not to speak about others [13]. It therefore follows that there are aspects of our experience that might sometimes crave expression but for which we have no words. The arts might be a portal through which such expression can be facilitated and allow us a window into what a richer and deeper experience than words alone permits.

It has long been acknowledged that there is a tacit dimension to knowing. There is knowledge that is tacit, implicit, unconscious and beyond words. For example, consider the knowledge required to ride a bike or to swim. This knowledge is sensory, emotional, bodily and non-verbal. We can describe a narrative of feet on pedals or steering via handlebars but that is different to the knowledge of riding. It is of a different order. The images that arise in our minds function at a basic embodied level to structure our thinking [7,9]. This convincing theory of conceptual metaphor suggests that the images we have about ourselves, and our world, are inextricably entwined with, and symbolic of, the way we think and feel. Our very thinking is metaphorical in nature and is dependent on our senses. This notion resonates with the description of how the brain works through a process of interoception that privileges information from the body [7]. The implication here is that the images and metaphors that surface in our minds can be trusted to be authentic and to be a genuine communication of our lived experience.

If research is about building and developing knowledge, then thinking along these lines leads us to the conclusion that working with images and the arts is important in research as it offers the potential to explore what is beneath the verbal surface, and that what we find there is authentic and valuable. The arts move us to see what is hidden or tacit to ourselves. The arts can therefore be of great value in heuristic enquiry, self-search and autoethnography in particular, as well as a form of data in researching the lived experience of others as in phenomenological or narrative inquiries. They can offer forms of thinking and forms of representation that add to the understandings gleaned through language and this can lead to an enlargement of mind [2]. The purposes of these forms of thinking are to capture meaning, to introduce new puzzlements and generate new conversations.

The duality of participation / reification explains how communities both constitute and sustain themselves. This duality not only does it suggest the dynamic tension that exists between both poles of the duality, but also the interdependence of each pole. Participation involves the process of taking part in the activities of the community as well as the relations that develop with others through participating. Therefore, it suggests both action and connection [10].

Artistic practices and artistic artifacts produced by communities or professional associations are examples of reification and participation but they also capture personal experiences. Individuals’ emotional involvement, personal learning and positionality mediate how each individual interprets official documents and texts and makes sense of mutual experience. Individuals and communities then recontextualise and renegotiate meaning for themselves.

The following initiatives go some way to achieving this vision.

5. Academic Learning Communities and Artist-Initiated Endeavours Argued – a Living Enquiry

The Leverhulme Trust has a history of supporting artist residencies in academic learning communities and Table 1 offers some examples of these. These examples demonstrate the richness and diversity of artistic engagement in educational settings. In these examples the artwork has been understood to be of epistemological value; for example, Gemma Anderson’s artwork emphasises the epistemological value of drawing as she explores a range of subjects through delicate and intricate drawings. This residency in a mathematics department facilitated the questioning of established taxonomies and systems of classification.

The residencies explore the interface of art and research and contribute to current debates in the field of the residency. Jonty Lees employs a multiplicity of artistic approaches to explore links between the environment and health in a rapidly changing age. Writer Nicola White chronicles the ‘Telling of Nurse’s Tales’ through crafting their real experiences as well as her own in a climate of political debate about the role of nurses.

Hondartza Fraga enhances and illuminates our understanding of the relationship between humans, whales and whale products through a variety of visual arts. This work contributes to historical and geographical knowledge and understanding through artistic engagement with Hull’s maritime heritage.

These residencies have all been characterised by collaboration, creativity and passionate engagement.

Table 1. A sample of artist-in-residence grants recently awarded by the Leverhulme Trust (

Michaela Barnard, University of Hull An artistic perspective on whales, whale ports, the marine environment and the place of these great mammals in the human imagination Visual art
Alison Derby, University of Birmingham Revisiting Winterbourne: a celebration and investigation of an Edwardian house owned by the university Paintings and print
Cassandra Phoenix, University of Exeter Interactions between the environment and health: an exploration of these links in an era of unprecedented change Multiple artistic approaches
Dorothy Buck and Tom Coates, Imperial College Hidden geometries: questioning taxonomies of classification through the creation of delicate and intricate drawings Drawing
Edward Watkins, University of Exeter Mood disorder inner voices: breaking the taboo that prevents us talking about mood disorders by hearing internal worlds Monologues
Nicola White, University of Edinburgh Telling nurses’ tales: catalysing and recording the work of the department and contributing to debates in the field Writing
JonyEasterby, Centre for alternative technology, West Wales Living landscape and protection: working in and with the landscape of the mountains of West Wales, responding to place and space Variety of media

5.1. Connecting Perspectives: An Artist’s Narrative

Creativity as Practice was a ground-breaking programme initiated by Idit Nathan and rolled out by Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI) between 2007 and 2009. I was one of 3 artists who delivered a series of 6 weekly art workshops with educators from different schools, after which we became artist / mentors to teachers who undertook a creative experiment (designed by the teachers) in their settings with their primary students, over a term. In this instance the artists did not produce any artwork. My role was to meet with a cohort of educators; during these meetings I had creative conversations and practiced a kind of ‘artist listening’ and offered artist perspectives on their plans and ideas. In the art workshops I and the other artists modelled ‘standing back’ and educators were encouraged to give their students this same space, time, voice and freedom to make decisions, without feeling de-skilled. There were long term outcomes: in some of the schools some educators completely changed their practice.

A huge diversity of artists worked for Creative Partnerships. All artists were called Creative Practitioners and CP had enquiry themes such as Talk about Tomorrow and 21st Century Schools. I do not think my role was typical within the CP artist community (see Table 2). Many artists gave art classes and taught art techniques which I did not. Instead I worked weekly, building on work done and changes of direction developed by the children from the week before. I introduced starting points and exposed the children to simple art materials where they were encouraged and supported to explore themes and ideas within broad guidelines without judgement and without pressure to produce a finished product. When things went wrong I worked with the students to find a solution and asked educators not to do it for them. These workshops were documented by me and the teachers who were also invited to be observers. Documentation included comments, findings, stories, noted changes in behaviour and class dynamics and photographs and film of the work and the process of making, exploring and experimenting. There were outcomes and exhibition of work. Some of the outcomes were creative leaps, more positive behaviour, increased self-esteem and more creative confidence and changed relationships (including teacher/pupil relationships where teachers’ preconceived ideas about their students were changed positively). This type of practice and collaboration has the potential to become an instrument of change [3].

This potential to make a difference in settings where children had little contact with the arts or artists was the thinking behind a research project by Vital Communities in Cambridge [12]. The project examined what the effect of weekly exposure to arts and artists in schools and the community over 5 years of school life might be. I collaborated with a different artist for each different setting in mostly remote fenland areas. For instance, I was paired at different times with a dancer, an actor and a musician. Collaborations worked well. We planned together but mostly worked separately, splitting ourselves between classes and community projects. Working with other artists in a variety of settings has proved, on the whole, to be an enriching experience for the artists and the participants, with converging skills changing practice and involving risk taking and experimentation. In a project with Creativity on the Edges – funded by Creative Partnerships – I was one of 8 artists / performers / dancers and a psychoanalyst who met monthly, exploring our creativity and developing a way of working with one another while preserving our identity as artists and as creative people who wanted to work in education. We were invited to take part in training with Teatro de los sentidos who were in Norwich with their theatre experience, Labyrinth. This was a phenomenal, sensed-based experiential 3 day workshop. We took these skills into a secondary school in Clacton where a Labyrinth was created by a class after a series of workshops with the instructors working in pairs. For our first introduction to the school my partner and I decided to be blindfolded and allow a group of secondary school children to lead us around the school and describe it to us and create some experiences for us. This was one of the most extraordinary methods of meeting: trusting these young people to lead us in turns resulted in a unique partnership between all parties – staff working with us the students and us the artists. This informed the whole project: filming, movement, drama workshops, the making of the labyrinth and the final Labyrinth performance.

Table 2. An artists professional journey(

Project / Partners Role of the artist Practices
Creativity as Practice: a partnership between the Faculty of Education and CCI 2007 - 2009 Creative / practitioner/facilitator To build teacher confidence to practice creatively and help teachers make sustainable change in the way they teach in their settings. *Standing back myself – and encouraging this in educators. *Listening – ‘artist listening’ as opposed to normal listening. *Dialogic and creative conversations that do not have obvious outcomes.
Creative Partnerships involving artists and schools in a nationwide programme 2005 - 2008 Creative practitioner and consultant *Co-constructing new planning and pedagogic pathways *Enabling and promoting risk taking *Documenting what constitutes creative learning
Vital Communities Research Project a 5 year programme .2006 - 2008 Collaborating with an artist of a different discipline (actor / writer / musician /composer / dancer etc) to deliver workshops with primary school children and community groups. *Collaborating to find a common ground – *Changing practice. *Finding freedoms within constraints
Masters course Faculty of Education, Cambridge 2009 - 2014 Presenter / Facilitator – inviting students to approach their practice / research / experience from a different perspective. *Question posing *Reflecting / demonstrating reflective arts practice
Kettle’s Yard Art Gallery, Cambridge 2005 2012 Artist facilitator with families and with educators On CPD day Creating new learning spaces for experimenting, seeing, creating, responding to exhibition

5.2. What Characterises my Role as Artist in Educational Settings

Time passes and different initiatives come and go. However, over the years, a blueprint of my arts practice with others has evolved that lends itself to all settings with only gentle modifications. These are some of the roles most artists working in higher education in an open-ended way take on:

Observer, documentor, encourager, door-opener, permission giver, time and space changer, safe / generous place maker, holder, empathiser, play maker, project planner, negotiator, foundation and springboard supplier, researcher, director, mistake maker, mistake encourager, shoulder, empathiser, questioner, listener, praiser, mentor, appreciator, personal boundary pusher, link maker, watcher, letting go-er, tie-cutter.

I see myself as being open-minded, understanding, open to sudden changes of direction, attuned and tuned in, an antenna, providing practical / technical support, enthusiastic, a revealer, an interpreter, a finder of important detail, adaptable, retaining an overview, sometimes invisible, able to take a back seat, allowing the process and not filling up the gaps, smoothing over embarrassing moments and exemplifying trust. See the artist’s perspective re-presented in Fig. 1.

Figure 1. An artist’s perspective: working alongside creative education.

5.3. What are the Ethics of Artist-Led Initiatives for Changing Practices in Higher Education

Working with the arts and with images can evoke powerful feelings in the creator and the viewer of the artwork. This means that researchers and research participants working with the arts might experience a range of emotions from, for example, contentment and joy to rage and shame.

Artists and researchers need to respond in an ethical manner, by considering ethical principles and the particular responsibilities these lead to. Drawing on my experience as a practitioner of psychotherapy who abides by the ethical framework developed by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, I think that it is useful to consider the ethical principles of being trustworthy, respecting autonomy, non- maleficence, beneficence, justice and self-respect in relation to all aspects of a research project [1].

Being trustworthy involves faithfully honouring the trust placed in the researcher by being genuine; offering accurate and honest information about the project; honouring any agreements made; being clear about the levels of confidentiality offered; ensuring anonymity if offered; and considering these issues for all who might be involved. It means being transparent and authentic. Autonomy involves: respecting the participants’ right to be self-governing; educating and informing as much as possible in relation to consent; and respecting the will of participants in all stages of the research.

‘Non-maleficence’ is a term which means avoiding any kind of harm or exploitation of all those included in the research. Beneficence moves beyond avoidance of harm to the promotion of wellbeing. It means that researchers act in the best interest of participants and it comes into play when researching with those whose capacity for autonomy is diminished because they are immature or vulnerable or in extreme distress or disturbance. Justice is about dealing with all involved in a fair and respectful way. Self-respect means that the ethical principles are also applied to the researcher and that an appropriate reflexive stance is taken in the research where the researcher is visible and transparent.

Taking these principles seriously in the face of distressing feelings being aroused in the course of research means that the researcher needs to be appropriately responsive. An appropriate stance is to be empathic, accepting and authentic. Empathy communicates understanding of the experience and demonstrates that the person in question is not alone with their distress. Acceptance avoids feelings of shame and exposure and from feeling judged.

Authenticity promotes trustworthiness. These conditions are relational in nature and therefore care must be taken in establishing ethical research relationships. This involves developing a working alliance by establishing clear boundaries and limits around the research and offering the conditions described above. There is a sense in which the researcher / artist is holding or containing the feelings that might arise in the work. Containing, in psychological terms, means taking in the feelings, processing, digesting, or making sense of them and offering them back in a more palatable form.

6. Concluding Thoughts: Why Artists in Residence can Enhance Higher Education Quality

In this article we have explored and reflected on a living enquiry involving not only art and artists as educators working alongside the child artist but also the potential for artists working in higher education to work alongside academics to enhance and open up learning communities to artistic expressions of learning. We have demonstrated the appropriateness of aesthetic experience – and not just artistic experience – as neither a luxury nor an exception. By associating daily with the artist in residence, teachers rediscover, in their own way, John Dewey’s message. There is a continuity between ordinary experience and the world of art. We know how far the father of pragmatism went along a line of thinking which considered art as an everyday experience.

In an uncertain and changing world, the speed and pervasiveness of change confronting HE may lead us to reject a creative idea prematurely because it does not fit with the prevailing mind-set in the organisation, or because there are, as perceived, more pressing needs for our attention. Yet higher education institutions need the capacity to operate reflexively, artistically and in the direction of creative responses that trigger risk-taking and creating more space to generate creative thinking and action. All our domains of work involve self-determined events and pressures and external forces that trigger needs for creativity – for example: financial viability and needs for funding; student feedback and external examiner reports; QA audits; Research Assessment Exercises and scores; government policies for increasing and widening participation; and development planning for innovative practice.

HE institutions are necessarily creative places. Framing problems is, of course, a good way to start solving them; and, as suggested by several authors, it may be that one of several imperatives is the ongoing argument that research in the arts should attempt to, and succeed to, do something beyond traditional dominant methodological models. There is a need for a participatory methodology working across discipline boundaries to guide society’s new potentials into creative self-augmentation, qualitative growth and adaptions to the continuing variation of the world.

As we develop our practices, policies and strategies for the employment of artists in residence in higher education, we need to be mindful not only of the narratives and issues of author position, standpoint and starting points adopted in studying diverse creativities, but also of understanding that creativity depends upon the theoretical approach taken.

In this article our argument took several lines of living enquiry with the intent of provoking debates. These include invitations to:

1.  Rethink the nature of artistic practice and creativities in higher education and advance our theoretical and practical understanding of creativity [14].

2.  Rekindle debates concerning the relationship between: individual and collaborative creativities; academic and practitioner creativities and artistic creativity; and specific domain and general creativities that have intrinsic value as prime ways of relating to artistic learning. In what ways, may we ask, can that help learning in HE? The educational power of art is a foundation, a cornerstone of knowledge generation {15}.

3.  Restore the place of the arts, artistic learning and artists in the curriculum of HE with forms of provision that best develop arts’ communities awareness, models of creative labour, knowledge and values. Due attention must be given to the aims, design, content, context and pedagogies of HE provision {16}.

We invite the reader to reflect on what constitutes our own voice as researchers and teachers, as learners and artists in higher education and in life itself. In conclusion, we hope that the creativity dimension continues to expand as a focus of the work of governments, that it becomes more highly valued in our communities, and that artists and arts’ organisations are supported to enable them to work effectively and centrally in higher education.


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  11. Klein quote sourced  from
  12. Vital Communities reference
  13. Stern, D. (1998) The Interpersonal World of the Infant. London Karnac Books.
  14. Taylor, S. & Littleton, K. (2012) Contemporary Identities of Creativity and Creative Work. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.
  15. Bennett, D., & Burnard, P. (2015) The development and impact of human capital creativities on higher education graduates: Lessons underpinned by the contribution of Bourdieu. In R. Comunian & A. Gilmore (Eds.(Beyond the Campus: Higher Education and the Creative Economy. London: Routledge.
  16. Hesmondhalgh, D., & Baker, Sarah (2011) Creative Labour: Media Work in Three Cultural Industries. London: Routledge.

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