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Collaboration with artists

It is one thing to incorporate creative methods into a design of university teaching or to include some artistic methods in specific teaching/ learning settings, but it is another thing to carry out or even to establish a concrete interdisciplinary collaboration with artists in the context of the academia. Such collaboration often depends on the specific commitment of a specific person and with this, the interest in a cooperation stands or falls for the whole project. Together with the great potential that collaboration with artists holds, there are potential obstacles and challenges, if academia and art are to combine and clarifications are needed.  


The scope and goals of the collaboration

The goals of collaboration in this context can be multifaceted and therefore it requires precise negotiation between all parties involved: collaboration can be a matter of support that is limited to the production of artistic products, may focus on specific therapeutic objectives such as personality-building measures or try to reach the (university) public with a specific concern for initiating changes. For the artist a collaboration with university can offer additional income and contact to a new target group as well as a possibility to develop their artistic competences with the chance to earn positive inputs for their artistic work, new experiences and learning possibilities and to do a social and political meaningful thing.

Depending on the artistic approach, the tasks of the involved artists vary between process support or/ and work creation. The collaboration can be long-term or limited to a single, intervention. This negotiation process already represents an important first step in the cooperation between university and art. On the one hand, this negotiation is necessary, because there is the need to activate resources that make cooperation possible in the first place. On the other hand, usually both, university teachers and artists, operate largely on their own and have things firmly under own control. The opening up requires clarification and negotiation. Indeed, such collaborations is highly challenging. But this is precisely why it may be so profitable, since the actors involved generally place very different demands on their work. While in the academic environment, what is valued is the end result, the success of a student to acquire knowledge, art focuses more on the work process and personal development.


Collaborative teaching challenges

An important prerequisite for successful collaboration between teachers and artist is the joint development of a project idea. Designing the collaboration from the start to be communicative and social helps to eliminate inhibitions and demarcations, at the same time it is the basis for exploiting the full potential of such collaborations. Basically, it can be assumed that most universities have little knowledge of art and that many artist have little experience with real life in the foreign disciplines of universities. This lack of information may cause unrealistic expectations, which lead to certain problems and projects fail or even don’t start. Especially lacks of information about goals and methods of artistic work mean that in some cases teachers cannot understand the benefits for their own collaboration during the collaboration – Artists can actively avoid this by communicating to the institution what their work is about.

This information exchange has to be done and repeated all the time, because knowledge about the artistic approaches is still not very widespread – even among open-minded teachers. This requires a high level of communication skills and willingness on the part of the artists with the corresponding activity, but on the other hand, it also requires teachers to create spaces for such an exchange as part of the courses actively. Depending on the length of collaboration, it is not only important to enable communication spaces within courses, but also to provide appropriate framework conditions for the artists – and this also with a view to the spatial infrastructure.

Looking forward to the end of the project, once again it will be important for the artists to clarify that the product can be different from the idea at the beginning. The real thing in a project is the process and the product must be subordinated to it. In university’s everyday life relatively standardized products are created they are often developed as part of assessments. That’s the point why teachers show a lack in experience dealing with products that go beyond their expectations. Concerning to this, it is important to emphasise that the creative potential of artistic access lies precisely in this process-view and alternative products.

In addition, the requirements and the way the target group has to be dealt with must be clarified with the artists in advance. This is particularly relevant if a project also involves target groups of social work in addition to the students. Artists did not learn from a vocational training, at which point they have to get involved with the addressee and when they have to distance themselves. Here it is up to the teachers to address the relationship between the professional actors and the addressees and to give the artist an insight into how to deal with them!

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