The Liminal Zone: A Metaphor for the Interface between Teaching and Creative Practice


Jan 2021 – Jan 2022

Funded by Carnegie Trust, £14,283

PI: Dr Mandy Haggith. Team: Rosemary Newman and Dr Vicky Johnson

This research project aims to understand how synergies can be nurtured between higher education arts teaching and teachers’ own creative practice. It uses a mixture of methods to generate both an overview of staff activity and in-depth explication of their lived experience on the interface of the arts and academia.

Update: 20th January 2022

The project has had four phases:

  • We began with an online survey to explore how creative art staff in Scottish colleges and universities balance their teaching and creative practice. The survey of teaching staff experience provided overview and comparative data and enabled us to identify participants for a deeper investigation.
  • We ran a series of appreciative inquiry dialogues with several artist-academics from the University of Highlands and Islands and from other Scottish Universities and colleges. From these dialogues we have gathered an in-depth understanding of how arts staff think about the edge-zone between their teaching responsibilities and creative activities and how they conceive the seashore as a metaphor for this interface.
  • We brought all these artist-academics together for a creative retreat and we have been nurturing this group as a community of practice exploring the interface between artistic and academic activity. Collectively we have taken the tidal zone as a central metaphor for a poetic and artistic inquiry into this interface.
  • This community of practice has triangulated the data from the survey with the qualitative evidence from the dialogues, poetic inquiry and their own artistic practice. Reflection discussion on this analysis has resulted the proposal of a policy for how Universities can nurture positive interaction between teaching and creative practice and boundary crossing between academic and arts identities. We have also created an art exhibition at Moray School of Art and Taigh Chearsabhagh.

If you are a creative arts teacher and are interested in our findings, please get in touch

A summary of the project's findings and proposed policy for support arts teachers is presented in this briefing paper: The Liminal Zone: Briefing Paper, February 2022

A more detailed account of the findings is in this working paper: The Liminal Zone, Working Paper, February 2022

The artworks produced in the project are being exhibited around Scotland:

  • Moray School of Art, Elgin – 21-28 January 2022
  • Taigh Chearsabhagh, Lochmaddy – 5- 26 February 2022
  • Rockfield Centre, Oban – 7-21 March 2022
  • Stirling University – 28 March – August 2022
  • Inverness, venue TBC – September 2022

For more information, visit: Media - Events - The Liminal Zone launch and exhibition (