Transdisciplinary tinkering in socially engaged and public art

Date: Ongoing since 2022

Location: Online and in different locations across six universities in Barcelona, Belfast, Cork, Montreal, Rennes, Weimar

Role: Concept, coordination, process moderation, teaching, design

Project Team: Alexandra Toland (Principle Investigator), Susanne Wille (Facillitation)

Collaborators: Marion Hohlfeldt, Anne Goarzin, Taylor Still, (Rennes2 University), Jools Gilson, Yvon Bonefant (University College Cork). Patrick Leroux, Silvy Panet-Raymond, Keely Whitelaw (Concordia University Montréal). Eloi Puig, Jo Milne, Ramón Parramón, Maria Eugenia Agusti Cami (University of Barcelona)

Students: Ph.D. and MA students of all partnering Universities

Supporters: DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in the program IVAC – International Virtual Academic Collaboration, Bauhaus-University Weimar in the frame of the program Bauhaus Module, ERASMUS Blended Intensive Programmes BIP. Pilot project in the Graduate School Greative Approaches to Public Space (GS-CAPS).


The “Public Arts Garage” is a joint international virtual seminar across six international partner universities. We use the “Garage” Metaphor to convey the spirit of experimentation and the joy of tinkering. Embracing this “Garage” spirit, the project connects students from MA and Ph.D. level, from different backgrounds, countries and academic cultures. In small teams, they create new collaborative methods for creative engagement with public spaces. The Public Arts Garage started as a virtual exchange project. After the first successful edition, it was continued and extended as hybrid and on-site program in the locations of the partner Universities. Since 2022, the network is constantly growing, forming a community of practice in socially engaged practice and art in public space.

Collaborative work in public spaces through virtual exchange

Between multiple crises, public space has remained a contested terrain of negotiation and political attention. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, the students are encouraged to leave their comfort zones and develop new methods together to approach critical issues in public spaces in different local contexts and to develop projects that operate at the boundaries of artistic practice.

Testing new methodologies

Public presentations

The project was presented at the international conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in Belfast in July 2022. We presented the didactic concept and the students’ works through a poster exhibition and a talk. Additionally, we held a transdisciplinary lab to test methods developed in the seminar in collaboration with a group of social anthropologists and with participation of the conference audience.

Moreover, the Public Arts Garage was selected for a presentation at the 70th anniversary meeting of the DAAD in London in September 2022, as one of seven best practice examples of student mobility projects and joint-degree programs.

In 2023, we presented the educational approach of the Public Arts Garage at the conference of Higher Education Advances HEAd in Valencia, followed by a publication.

The “Public Arts Garage” created lasting bonds among some students that lead to follow-up projects. The partner universities were part of the recently founded network Creative approaches to public space (CAPS). The project served as a pilot in this network and is since then continued. The network is continuously extended into a growing community of practice in socially engaged and artistic practice in public spaces.

Building lasting relationships

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