Headshot of Penn State Associate Professor of Art Education Aaron Knochel

Knochel guest-edits online journal for arts-integrated research

Aaron Knochel, associate professor of art education, is guest editor for the first special collection for a2ru Ground Works, the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities’ (a2ru) online open access publication covering arts-integrated research.

Titled Vibrant Ecologies of Research, this collection explores Knochel’s question: “What are the elements necessary to create a vibrant ecology of research where art and design inquiry may flourish alongside, within, and out of social and physical science research that is so deeply embedded within the fiber of research-oriented universities?”

Each of the five peer-reviewed projects and three invited commentaries in the collection offers a unique answer.

The collection suggests a broad array of strategies for arts-integrated research to thrive, as well as some cautions. Project work that comes out of opportunity, such as Penn State’s own Lauren Stetz, Karen Keifer-Boyd, and Michele Merkel’s “Just-in-Time Ecology of Interdisciplinarity: Working with ‘Viral Imaginations’ in Pandemic Times,” suggests important moments, such as the pandemic, offer hyper-charged opportunities for the arts.

Ongoing challenges that are complex and ever-changing, such as the urgency we now face in light of the climate crisis, suggest that arts-integrated approaches offer more holistic responses, as discussed in Mary Beth Leigh and Lissy Goralnik’s “In a Time of Change: A Nested Ecosystem of Environmental Arts, Humanities, and Science Collaboration” and Eric Benson’s “Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Paper Lab.”

Importantly, it is the coming together of researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders in collaboration that matters, whether it be transnational, such as Genevieve G. Tremblay, Jeff Brice, Fernanda X. Oyarzún, Nélida Pohl, and Belén Gallardo’s “ASKXXI: Ecologies of Interdisciplinary Research and Practice in Art + Science and Technology,” or across local communities, such as Jamie Hand’s “Translating Outcomes: Reflections on ArtPlace America’s Cross Sector Research.” The caution across these collaborations is that sustaining robust arts-integrated research is resource intensive and requires both financial and human investments that place demands on the team that may stress its capacity.

Nevertheless, Knochel states, “Art and design have an important role to play in meeting the many challenges that we face, and the special collection explores the complexities and opportunities that arise when deep collaborations and critical interventions permeate different domains of the academy. My hope is that it serves both as a testament to praxis and a call to further action.”

The special collection is available as an open-source academic resource, and a2ru is sponsoring a reading club series in fall 2022. The reading club includes easy-to-use guides for three club meetings and an ask-me-anything-style webinar series with Knochel and select contributors. More information can be found at the a2ru website.

Knochel is a 2022-23 Fulbright Scholar, researching digital culture, at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is co-chair of the Digitally Engaged Learning (DEL) Conference and associate chair of the National Arts Education Association (NAEA) Research Commission.