In most schools, there are few spaces less tidy than an art room with its tiny paper bits, residual clay dust, spilled water spots, and paint splashes.

During a renovation design, we often are directed to upgrade the building system and repair deficiencies but not instructed to focus on art room aesthetics because of the perception that art rooms generally appear to be unorganized. Despite the perceived chaos of these spaces, critical learning takes place. According to a report published by Rice University in February of 2019, students who participated in arts education had improved writing achievement, reduced disciplinary infractions, more engagement, and no drop in standardized test scores. They also demonstrated improved college aspirations.

Despite the advantages and obvious connection to overall academic achievement, most school districts treat the arts as supplemental to other aspects of learning.

Trevor Campbell of Canterbury Schools, a premier college prep private K-12 school in Fort Wayne, believes that visual arts provide unique opportunities to develop students’ communication skills, empathy for others, individual passions, and their use of expression. “Visual arts are a way to communicate with others. They’re essential in conveying our ideas,” Campbell says.

Many high school art rooms consist of a large central area for student tables, surrounded by perimeter cabinets, counters, and sinks.

Today’s art room needs to be flexible. Campbell acknowledges that more visual arts educators are moving away from the “I’ll model, then you do” approach and shifting to a more student-centered experience. This involves educating students on specific skills, exposing them to contemporary and historically significant artists, and challenging them with conceptual ideas so they can form more individual approaches to artwork.


There are thousands of ways to paint, Campbell states, and it’s not wise to teach one subject in one specific manner.

“We want to empower our students to use their personal choices and passions to create artwork that reflects themselves,” he emphasizes. He believes the classroom should mirror this concept, offering more flexibility for different workspaces and easy access to a wide range of materials.


Design Collaborative has recently worked with school administrators, facilities staff, and individual educators to provide a better environment for the art student experience.

Every school program is unique in the way it delivers a successful art program, so each space should be customized and adapted to support the program’s goals and students’ needs.


By placing art rooms on a major circulation route, people within the school community have opportunities to get a glimpse into the environment that showcases student activity.

Many older facilities positioned their art rooms on lower levels or in a separate dedicated wing. By putting art rooms in more easily accessible locations, it allows visitors to witness the process of art and not just the final product. Many modern art rooms take into account opportunities for exposure to natural light and exterior views. Incorporating adjacent exterior patios with direct access will allow students to shift to the outdoors. So, next time you find yourself in the midst of an art class’s creative chaos, remember the magic of growth and design possibilities that abound in such vibrant, often underestimated environments.

Copyright ©2024 Design Collaborative