Exploring the Intersection of Psychogeography and Arts Management: A New Model for Creative Workspaces



In the realm of arts management, the impact of physical space on individuals is a topic that demands attention. Three esteemed professors from Columbia College, Mary Filice, Clayton Smith, and Ryan Smith recently presented their study at the Southeastern Theatre Conference. Their study delved into the fascinating concept of psychogeography and its application in arts management. By understanding how space influences behavior and emotions, the research aims to reshape work environments, fostering collaboration, inclusivity, and innovation. In this blog post, we explore the key findings of their research, the creative compass tool used for redesigning spaces, and the empowering model they have developed to facilitate meaningful changes in workspaces. Join us on this insightful journey as we delve into the transformative potential of psychogeography in the realm of arts management.

1. How did you all apply psychogeography to arts management, and what were the key findings of their research project?

“At its core, psychogeography is really about the impact of space on an individual moving through that space. Looking at psychogeography through this lens makes for an easy connection to not just arts organizations, but any professional organization. A more invigorating and inspiring space makes for more invigorated and inspired people, and if people can be happier in the workplace, they’re more likely to align their efficiency with organizational goals. The research is ongoing, so I hesitate to share any findings at this point,” says Clayton Smith, Associate Professor of Instruction.

2. What were some of the offerings and presentations at SETC, and how did they relate to finance and arts management?

“Arts Management is a relatively new component of the SETC, with this year being only the second year they’ve offered workshops on the topic. In addition to our workshop, there was an arts administration meetup, and there were sessions on Microsoft Excel, personal finance, and strategic planning,” said Ryan Smith, Associate Professor of Instruction and Co-Director of Graduate Programs.

3. Can you explain the creative compass tool used to redesign the space, and how it helped improve inclusivity and innovation?

As Mary Filice explains, “The concept of Psychogeography originated in 1950s Paris by a group of radical artists, intellectuals, and political activists (the Situationists, led by Guy Debord) who sought to apply the tenets of psychogeography to urban development efforts that would reshape neighborhoods into more welcoming and livable environments thereby improving and uplifting the lives of everyday people. It was a social movement meant to disrupt the urban sprawl and spectacle of that time; it was an attempt to dismantle the concept of urban centralization. Although their efforts failed, interest in psychogeography continues as it has been primarily used as a creative tool for the literary, visual, and performing arts.

As more and more organizations seek to improve employee engagement (a management concept originating in the 1990s) as a means to increase efficiencies and productivity, we saw a relationship between psychogeography and management, especially within the creative industries. We believe that psychogeography can be applied to the re-envisioning of workspaces into environments that inspire creativity, collaboration, inclusivity, and well-being, basically into whatever the group requires to improve their environment.

So we’ve taken psychogeography and are applying this to the workplace for people to explore and reimagine how to restructure their space so it is more inclusive, more collaborative, safe, etc. whatever the group defines as the specific goal.

To begin, small groups of people explore their workspaces (could be office space, a performance space, a studio, etc.) in a heightened playful (to encourage spontaneity) state of awareness. They are tasked to first observe the physical and ambient aspects that exist, noting how these existing elements (texture, lighting, color, exits and entrances, obstacles, free-flowing areas, areas of ritual, power, etc.) impact their behavior, emotions, and thinking.

This same group then imagines how they would like to feel, based upon the original goal of transforming the space to be more collaborative, for example. Given this, they then share ideas on how to reshape the space so that it better supports the desired outcome of being more collaborative (or whatever to match the original goal).”

4. What was the process of applying their research project at Baruch College in Manhattan? And can you talk more about this presentation?

Mary Filice says, “We will be presenting our model at the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) 2023 Conference at Baruch College in June.

Presentations were subject to a blind peer review of proposals, and the theme of the conference is “The Creative Ecosystem: People Process Power.”  The presentation is titled, “Arts Management and the Purposeful Dérive: A Psychogeography Management Model for the Creative Economy.”