Faculty make steps toward implementing art into learning spaces


Members of the Computer Science program and the Division of Research and Economic Development are calling to expand their students’ horizons by bringing more art into their lives here at Boise State. These two departments have reached out to the University Art Curator, Fonda Portales, as they try to actively shape their culture.

“What I think is interesting is that these departments understand art is not about decoration of space, but rather about stimulating questions and new answers in their students,” Portales said. “They understand that art is not simply a completed act or a final product, but rather an important part of the process of learning in all types of disciplines.”

With the new headquarters in the City Center Plaza downtown, the Computer Science Department has the opportunity to bring in student-made artwork to improve the working space of their students and faculty.

“With the rapid growth of all of our CS programs and all of the activity around occupying a new building, it’s easy to adopt a head-down, focused-on-the-next-thing posture and attitude,” said computer science lecturer Mason Vail. “Art encourages us to pause a moment, look around and remember that there is more to life than finishing the next assignment and getting to the next class.”

Vail’s statement expressed just how easy it is to get sucked up into one’s own world or major. Pausing to remember the opportunities available to expand one’s horizon in a university setting could lead to eye-opening experiences all around campus.

While the new computer science building is an impressive space, Vail believes that it could use some sprucing up.

“Once the newness of being in a new facility wears off, vast barren walls become depressing. Our spaces may have purpose and function, but they lack life and soul,” Vail said. “Adding art to the building’s empty walls could give it the soul that it needs.”

“We would like our students to be well-rounded, whole people,” Vail said. “Our world often emphasizes the short-term job training aspect of degree programs at the expense of cultivating the whole person and developing an appreciation for the larger world we live in,” Vail said.

Amit Jain, associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Computer Science, continued this thought, saying, “Visual arts in the new space is one important step in balancing the two.”

While job training is essential to a life and career outside of the university, these members of the faculty understand that exposure to other disciplines and the creative workings of art are important as well.  

In addition to the computer science program, the Division of Research and Economic Development also sees the benefits of exposure to art.

“The division is awarding a selected student with $500 to exhibit her or his work in the office, and that is a rare opportunity,” Portales said. “They have also opened the call to all makers, meaning that the work can come from any student, not just art students. Creativity is to be found in all of our students, and they recognize that.”

The department will be mounting the winning work on a foam board and displaying it in the office of the Vice President. In addition to the $500 award,  a small award reception will be held in his or her honor. Entry for consideration opened on Oct. 23 and will close on Nov. 30.

The department seeks “student artwork that speaks to the process of discovery in the creation of both art and technology,” their flyer says, “with an emphasis on inter/transdisciplinary motifs, the artist/maker will explore the relationship of art (or the artist/maker) to research or creative discovery.”

Both of these departments understand that merging disciplines and expanding one’s education while in a university setting can be exponentially beneficial to an individual. By bringing art into their spaces of learning, these members of the faculty show that they recognize that all students have creativity.



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