As the baseline research for the PARTGO project, an online survey was created to gather mainly numerical data and to gain general knowledge about the educational and pedagogical practices in public higher education in the arts across Europe as mentioned above. Out of 180 addresses, the survey collected 35 entries and provided a small sample overview of public art education. Although the research aimed to provide geographical balance, higher education institutions (HEIs) in the arts from Western and Northern Europe were more weighted in the sample.
Based on the origin of the entries the presumption about the existence of public art higher education was non-significantly proved, stating that public art as an integrated part of the curriculum is not yet available at each European geographical location. First and foremost, as a methodological element of the pedagogical action research, the survey aimed to gain reflections on the definition of public art created by the PARTGO team and on the distribution, characteristics, and features of public art courses between education levels to support the descriptive and exploratory nature of this study.
The design of the survey aimed to be user friendly, using non-complicated language and short questions with some explanatory remarks to guide the respondents. An introduction and contextualization part introduced a well-elaborated and comprehensive definition of public art with the intention of receiving comments, corrections on the understanding of this phenomenon and to open up a dialogue about framing the practices linked to PA.
As the first main part of mapping the availability and existence of public art courses, the survey referred to whether the recipient’s institution provides thematic public art courses, if so, how are they implemented in the given educational programme and which curriculum level is more compatible with the definition created by the PARTGO team. The two-choice type answers ensured dividing the sections between BA and MA levels and listing identical questions regardless of choices with the purpose of comparative analysis.
The survey operated mainly with multiple-choice and multiple-choice grids with pre-listed answers and the option of adding supplementary information. In a minority of cases, short answer and checkbox type segments were also integrated to make the survey more informative. Altogether, 27 questions tried to cover the different aspects of PA education. As a closing act, the survey also asked the recipients to provide institutional data, while considering the relevant GDPR regulations.
The survey consisted of three main thematic categories. The first section was designed to reflect on the description of PA, the second and most extensive section included themes to unfold the details of BA or MA level courses focusing on pedagogical and methodological aspects, meanwhile the third section was framed around summative assessment since it is an essential yet underrepresented part of the pedagogical framework. The second section of the survey listed questions referring to the format, focus, pedagogical methods, disciplines, and social engagement of the PA courses, while in the summative assessment part, educators could indicate which methods are used to assess the performance of the students.
At the beginning of the survey with Question_1 (Q1) the respondents needed to rate their agreement with the PARTGO definition of public art. Out of 34 respondents, 25 (71%) fully agreed giving a rating of 5 (out of 5), 4 respondents gave 4, and 5 respondents gave 3 as their level of agreement. The combined total of people with scores of 4 or 5 is 30 (86%). No one gave a score lower than 3, so basically the conclusion is that agreement with the definition among most of the recipient's is relatively high.
As described above the survey then narrowed down the range of respondents with the question about whether their institution provides thematic PA courses (Q3). Out of 35 entries 28 recipients answered that they had such a course, and the final number who finished the survey providing usable data was 27 respondents.
BA level PA courses in comparison with MA level PA courses
Based on the results, most PA courses are provided at BA level (57.1% or 16 cases), and 46.7% of those 57.1% happen at BA3 level. At MA level, 36.4% happen at MA1 leading to the same score as mixed MA and BA courses (Q6 and Q10). This distinction is only applicable in the Bologna style education system.
Figure 1: Course/Project at BA/MA level
The second most frequent study year for PA courses with 40% is BA2, although it is interesting to see that in 33.4% of the cases, mixed BA courses are announced. The limitations of the questionnaire would not allow us to detect a clear correlation between the complexity of the PA genre and the chosen higher education levels, although the data might imply that PA requires a certain stage in the student’s educational journey. One interesting discovery was that the respondents claimed to have as many mixed level courses as exclusively MA courses.
It was particularly interesting and promising to see that public art courses at BA level happen on a regular basis in 87.5% of the cases, while project-based courses are not represented among the practices of the recipients, but the extent of the survey did not make it feasible to assess this without doubt (Q7).
Figure 3: Ways of realizing PA courses - BA
Meanwhile, at MA level, the variance in results is greater, it is more frequent to have PA courses on a regular basis (45.5%), while project-based or extra-curricular formats and courses that happened only one-time appear similarly 27.3% of the time.
Figure 4: Ways of realizing PA courses - MA
The variance of answers is highly linked to the question on the ‘average number of students’. It cannot be stated unequivocally what the average number of students at PA courses is at BA level, even though 20% of the respondents claimed to have 14 students at a course, but extremes like 30–45 students are also highly represented but expressed more as intervals than a defined number. As it was later learnt during the interview phase, the high course numbers referred to art history/theory lectures where PA was integrated and discussed but not in the form of a whole semester long creative course.
Figure 5: Avarage number of students - BA
It is also difficult to make any conclusive comparisons between BA and MA levels. The only difference which can be detected is that groups with 45 students do not appear in the MA chart and the majority of entries proposed a lower range for the number of students, somewhat between 10–20 (Q8).
Figure 6: Avarage number of students - MA
The survey also collected the title and URL (if applicable) of the courses at BA and MA levels, and the departments from which the students were recruited (Q9 and Q11). Among the answers, media design, fine arts, visual arts, intermedia and site-specific arts, to name a few, were mentioned but the entries did not provide quantifiable or comparable data. Although a slight pattern could be discerned, such that media, visual and fine arts departments are slightly overrepresented in providing PA courses. At MA level, architecture and city planning also appear as departments, and based on the answers, the cooperation of several departments is more likely at MA level. This tendency is also confirmed at BA level as can be seen in the answers provided when rating the contribution and relevance of a PA course for different fields of the arts, where visual art (with the highest score ‘essential’ in 7 cases) marks a PA course as ‘essential’, and performing art (with second most scored as ‘essential’ with 5 cases), while the digital art field found it to be less essential but still ‘important’ in 6 cases. One compelling discovery was that architecture as a field gave scores indicating ‘slightly relevant’ in 5 cases, and music and literature as ‘moderately relevant’ in 5 and 6 cases.
During the interviews some professors interestingly mentioned that the open calls for city planning and building construction, where PA is part of the intervention, architects are at the forefront to win the grants and support. The MA level does not show extreme divergence from the BA, visual art has the highest score with 8 cases, while performing art marked 5 cases as ‘almost essential’ and design and digital art marked 4 cases as ‘essential’. The variance in the data in the MA case is more tangible and conclusions are more complicated to define regarding the relevant fields. The reason behind the results on the BA level could be that the addressed recipients come mainly from the fine art field and less from applied art, and furthermore the highlighted architecture, music and literature fields are usually available at universities with different profiles. Although at MA level, design as such had a relatively high score among the entries (Q14).
More representative data refers to the outputs of the PA courses at BA level (Q13). As the diagram shows in 12 cases (75%), which is a clear majority, each student creates an output as an end result or a final piece from their learning experience.
Figure 7: Number of Outputs - BA
As the pie chart reflects, the MA level shows colourful results regarding the number of produced outputs. Still, one output for every participating student takes the highest score with 45.5%, but other responses did not refer to the number of outputs, mainly to the complexity of defining a number for the outputs.
Figure 8: Number of outputs - MA
This information is thought-provoking for both levels considering the (alleged or actual) collaborative manner and feature of PA especially in relation to Question 22, where the recipients claimed that collaborative skills are key elements – 13 cases or 81.3% – within a PA course at BA, and 11 cases or 100% at MA level.
The subsequent questions in the survey aim to understand the features of the expected outputs, such as temporality and site specificity. Unambiguous conclusions cannot be drawn about temporality based on the data because the recipients’ reflection stated that the temporal / permanent / event-like components are dependent on the particular project or that the courses are not designed to frame the assignments around the temporality dimension, so the types of the outputs are more likely defined by the challenge and the artistic concept itself than by a given requirement like durability. It interesting to compare site specificity at BA level, where the majority of the respondents (9 cases 56.3%) chose public places over semi-public and virtual places as the sites for the course outputs (Q16 and Q17). This result is not surprising since public art originated in public places available for public use as part of the commons.
Figure 9: Temporal dimension of outputs - BA
As expected, the MA level data shows similar attributes except in the case of pre-defined temporality of the assignment, since it scores higher with 36.4% or 4 cases. Additional categories were more likely to be added to this question at MA level, plus the major difference is that the category ‘temporality was irrelevant’ was not marked at all at MA level, so it might be concluded that the assignments are more likely to require a defined temporality dimension. In addition to the spatial aspect regarding site specificity, 8 cases or 72.7% chose the public place as the site of the PA course and the second highest score (7 cases or 63.6%) was the virtual space before semi-public place. With this data, MA and BA levels differ in respect to the spatial aspect.
Figure 10: Temporal dimension of outputs - MA
It can be considered as representative that being experimental received the highest score (13 cases or 81.3 %) for the output category multiple-choice question at BA level (Q18). The second highest score with 68.8% or 11 cases is the participative label marked as relevant in terms of a PA course also at BA level. This result raises the need for a deeper understanding of the term participative, especially considering the set of questions trying to discover the extent of social engagement in the PA context mainly at BA level but also at MA level. Not surprisingly for the respondents, the third highest score is being political with 10 cases or 62.5%.
Figure 11: Relevant categories regarding the outputs - BA
The MA level shows a similar pattern to the BA level except in the participative category. Being experimental with 9 cases or 81.8% and being political, 7 cases or 63.6%, are overrepresented among the recipients. It is notable that the category ‘each was different’ received as many entries as the experimental answer. The reason behind this could be that MA courses and the assignments require a more flexible framework to some extent, which reflects the seniority of the students. The context of the survey did not allow us to unfold the layered and philosophical meaning of being political but presumably it refers to the very essence of public art which is to draw attention in a thought-provoking way towards unresolved issues and challenges in terms of society, public place and articulated artistic statements.
Figure 12: Relevant categories regarding the outputs - MA
In the explanatory part related to this question at BA level, the following terms also appeared considering the output of a PA course (Q19): ‘environmental utility, tactile, social commentary, ecological and philosophical’. These elements can be seen to inform and revise the designed public art definition of the PARTGO project. We would also like to highlight the aspect of humour, since being political can sometimes be eased through the addition of humour and when transmitting messages in a perceivable way. In addition, to help audiences process them, humour can be the key. This characteristic can be underrated even though humour has many artistic forms.
The next set of questions (Q20–21) in the survey tried to discover the meaning of social engagement linked to public art using the multiple-choice format. The engagement forms and degrees offered in the questionnaire aimed to cover various understandings of social engagement with different levels of interaction and participation. ‘Taking part in the design’ category refers to the most complex and layered engagement, where the public is a co-author of the work. ‘Taking part in the implementation of the artwork’ as the second category still represents a strong connection between the author and the public while ‘interacting with the work’ signifies the temporality of the engagement. This option suggests that the work is ready, it is implemented, and the public has the possibility to interact with it. The quality of the interaction is not detectable based on this question, since the interaction can be multisensorial, participative, proactive, and purely observational. Meanwhile, the category ‘assessing the work’ can refer to a more traditional or quite the opposite to a non-conventional way of interaction, meaning the audience or the public is only perceiving the work, or the opportunity is given to them to create and express feedback and comments.
The chart from the BA level clearly shows that interacting with the work or the PA course output is marked as the most relevant and the most essential degree of social engagement, although the question referred more to the process of the PA course / project and less to the output of the activity. The categories of taking part in the design / creation process or in the implementation of the artwork were mostly scored ‘non-relevant’ in terms of the PA course or project, while assessing the work varied since approximately the same number of entries (4 each) marked this as ‘less essential’ or ‘not relevant at all’. Not considering social engagement as needed in the process response option also showed a kind of consensus since the responders mainly scored this statement as ‘not relevant’, meaning they consider social engagement as a necessary part of the process. In terms of the research analyses, it is interesting to elaborate the relationship between the phrases ‘participative’ and ‘social engagement’, posing follow-up questions like what does participative refer to, who are participating and to what extent.
Figure 13: Forms/Degrees of social engagement - BA
Compared to the BA level, the MA level does not show as many extremes as was detected at BA level. The chart is more balanced except the ‘assessing the work’ category, where 6 recipients indicated that this is ‘almost essential’ for social engagement.
‘Interacting with the work’ received 4 scores as the most essential way of social engagement but ‘taking part in the implementation of the artwork’ scored just the same. Although ‘not considering social engagement as needed’ is not as directly irrelevant as it is at BA level and ‘taking part in the design’ is also not as strictly irrelevant as in the BA case. Between the first two categories and the last category a slight discrepancy can be detected and due to the limited extent of the survey the understanding of ‘assessing the work’ is not scientifically defined so the true meaning of social engagement cannot be extracted.
Figure 14: Forms/Degrees of social engagement - MA
It is also important to mention the explanatory and additional comments received to this question at BA level. One respondent stated: ‘The public who walk through the park often engage with the students and tell them stories of the tenements that used to exist there.’ This marks an interesting element related to social engagement, participation, and educational methods. Interacting with the public is essential yet not organized, but rather more organically achieved. The answers and this comment also suggest that informal connections and human interactions are more than welcome, but the framework and platform is more impromptu than educationally integrated.
Quoting explanatory and additional comments from MA level, for example: ‘...recently that engaged with the Irish Army as participants and audience’ this specific group of people as a public entity stretches and expands the understanding of social and public engagement, and might require a differentiation between public and semi-public engagement. Another quote is that: ‘...students are dispersed around a wide range of geographical locations, so the implementation of their project work is local to their place of residence, each student works in different ways, so there are different degrees of relevance for each of the four points above’. This quote suggests that at the MA level the students have the freedom to choose the level of involvement they are operating, and it cannot be unified even within one course setting.
In the following sections the survey aimed to gain insights into the educational framework (Q22–26) and pedagogical features associated with a PA course, like the content of the course and skills that can be acquired. Applying multiple-choice questions, the respondents could choose more than one element referring to what relevant content is or what the building-blocks of their PA course are. As seen in the diagram concept development skills and collaborative skills are equally relevant at BA level, since they received 13 answers resulting in 81.3% of relevance. The second highest score is for the interdisciplinary knowledge specific to the theme/subject of the course work (social sciences, cultural studies, psychology etc.) with 75% or 12 cases. Close behind on a shared third position of relevance is the public art theory and history with 68.8% or 11 cases. It is worth contemplating the relatively low score of public engagement skills (fostering participation), especially in comparison with the categories referring to the output (participative) and the importance of some form of public and social engagement. It is only an assumption, but the conclusion could be that the output of a PA course is participative through the public engaging with it, but the skillset of how to foster participation and public engagement is not deliberately part of the pedagogical methods used.
Figure 15: Relevant elements of PA courses - BA
The MA level reflects similar tendencies as the BA level. The highest score, with 11 cases or 100%, was for collaborative skills unlike the BA level, where concept development skills with 9 cases and 81.8% scored second with public engagement skills (fostering participation). The significant level of entries declaring collaborative skills as the most relevant elements in a PA course is a bit contradictory with the individual style of working, although a similar incoherence regarding public engagement (fostering participation) and the necessity of social engagement experienced at BA level is not applicable at MA level, except that the participative manner of the outputs scored relatively low at MA level. Presumably the cause-and-effect beyond this phenomenon is that at MA level the PA process is more likely to be participative and socially engaged and the result / work cannot be described with this indicator. In comparison to BA level, public art theory and history received a high score with 8 cases or 72.7% just like technical and financing knowledge. The ratios between the categories that are insignificant might suggest that the skills that can be developed during an MA course are more likely to be complex and harder to be compartmentalized.
Figure 16: Relevant elements of PA courses - MA
Two comments to be underlined in the additional remarks section at BA level are ‘environmental understanding’ and ‘health and safety policies on national and international levels’. Environmental consciousness and awareness are an emerging topic in the art world, so, not surprisingly, among public art interventions as well. Learning about health and safety policies can be included in other listed categories and it is a more technical knowledge but essential to learn how to navigate the regulations. While at MA level, terms and skills like ‘aesthetic’ and ‘political knowledge’ appear, just like more specific methodological knowledge, for instance, social ‘anthropology theory and ethnographic methods’.
Still, assessing the pedagogical features of a PA course, the next question referred to the pedagogical methods of the course. Tutored individual work scored 100%, so all 16 respondents marked it as the most relevant method in their teaching practice at BA level. Formal lectures and presentations come a close second with 12 cases or 75%. This result is in line with the public art history and theory score received in the previous set of questions. Although some level of anomaly can be sensed here since collaborative skills were highly scored in the previous segment, the results in the used and claimed pedagogical methods chapter do not support how these skills are encouraged if group work and pair-work is not well-represented among the applied methods.
Figure 17: Relevant pedagogical method - BA
Meanwhile, the MA level shows a balance in pedagogical methods since almost all the formats and methods received 90.9% with 10 responses. It is captivating to observe that individual tutoring and small group collaborations are equally present within a PA course, this variety can result in a dynamic learning experience.
Figure 18: Relevant pedagogical method - MA
The entry for the following questions also confirms the detected inconsistency at BA level. From the learning method used by the students during a PA course, creative problem-solving leads with 13 cases or 81.3%. Background reading and group analyses are a close second with 11 responses or 68.8% and in the third most popular category is self-assessment techniques. Collaborative and cooperative techniques are underrepresented among the methods used within the courses. The background reading and group analyses might allow the assumption of collaboration and collaborative work, although how it is executed can define whether it can count as cooperation and collaboration or more individual analysis in a group setting.
Figure 19: Learning method - BA
At MA level, background reading and group analyses lead the line of learning methods used by the students with 10 cases or 90.90%. Creative problem solving is a close second with 9 cases or 81.8%, and self-assessment techniques with 8 cases or 72.7% come third. Even though the MA level courses reflect the possibility of collaborative work, the students might not be equipped with cooperative and collaborative work techniques. It appears that the formats can be collaborative, but the tools are not necessarily an integrated part of the thought methods.
Figure 20: Learning methods - MA
The last question divided on the basis of BA and MA levels referred to the final form of the outputs. As the chart shows actual installation / performance leads among the entries by 87.5% or 14 cases at BA level, and similarly with 10 cases or 90.9% at MA level. Concepts and mock-ups with 50% and 43.8% respectively, are still relevant to the final format of a PA course at BA level and concept is also relevant at MA level with 5 cases or 45.5%, while mock-ups are not as representative at MA level. The conclusion to be drawn based on these final questions is that real-life interventions are core elements of a PA course, creating, executing, and implementing a work (product, object, installation performance) within the course framework can be elementary to the learning experience and to an understanding of what public art is about.
Figure 21: Final forms of outputs - BA
Figure 22: Final form of outputs - MA
The summative assessment (Q27–28) part of the survey was the closing section both at BA and MA levels. We can see that 89.3% of the recipients use some kind of assessment at the end of the course.
Figure 23: Assessment methods used
As the chart shows, the most popular ways of assessment are scoring by the teacher (16 cases, 66.7%) and oral feedback by the teacher (15 cases, 62.5%), followed by group assessment of the students (13 cases 54.2%). Self-assessment by the student is not as relevant as the categories mentioned above, and interestingly, the respondents added several additional ways of assessing the course. The students like module assessment, applying for public art commissions and feedback from collaborators and stakeholders.
Declaring the descriptive and exploratory nature of this study and defining it as a pedagogical action research helped to contextualize the data provided by the survey. Purely quantitative research on PA education is highly challenging considering the still emerging capacity of PA in higher art education. Nevertheless, designing the research with the ambition of gaining comparable and quantitative data was successful since the survey informed the interview phase content-wise and operatively. Using a questionnaire format for the highest possible anonymous outreach in a loose contact position without demanding deeper engagement (time and capacity-wise) was a justifiable methodological step. The responses gained from the recipients of the survey informed the semi-structured interviews by outlining the subject areas and the structural (in)consistencies. Besides, with the help of the survey the recipients could express their willingness to be or not to-be interviewed, which contributed to the contact list for the interview phase.
The survey provided a much clearer vision of PA in Higher Art Education across Europe. The set of questions indicated information on the educational levels (BA, MA) that PA courses are run, the average number of students and study years plus the different art fields involved in the courses. Insights were gained from the results of the questionnaire in terms of the number, format, temporality, spatial aspects, and characteristics of the outputs of the PA courses. Another relevant thematic question tried to detect the nature of social engagement in relation to the PA courses (process and output), and the pedagogical and learning methods in the same way as with the content elements identifiable in the PA courses themselves. The survey also included questions about the summative assessment of the PA courses and aimed to collect information on the final format of the outputs.
The analysis of the survey tried to tackle question by question the interlinkages and anomalies beyond the answers, aiming to extract significant and quantifiable findings. The thematic areas showing interesting content traces included the level and form of social engagement, meaning of participation and public engagement, the incidence of pedagogical hiatus, the nature of collaboration in comparison to individual and team-based work plus more philosophically the essence of PA in terms of whether it was experimental, political, performative or digital. The purpose of the survey and its analysis was not to draw conclusions and representative academic findings but rather to paint a picture of the current situation and to explore patterns to be further examined, as well as to incorporate what was learned into course development.
As becomes tangible in the following interview phase, the presence of public art in the art HEI setting stands rather on the meta-layer, meaning it is a part of art education but more horizontally and in a sporadic manner and less as an integrated well-defined curriculum. That is the reason why PA can be acknowledged as a ‘meta-curriculum’.