Developing a Muralism and Public Art Qualification in London


Sponsor: Wood Street Walls
Sponsor Liaison: Georgia Bonfield, Mark Clack, Niamh Saint-Prenderville
Student Team: Julia Antocci, Alberto Flores, Morgan Foltz, Nathaniel Reppucci
Muralism has become a substantial part of the creative economy in the UK. Though murals were once decried as graffiti, the movement has evolved and pieces are now considered valuable pieces of art. Despite this, there is no formal training or qualifications in muralism. The goal of this project was to develop a curriculum to support a qualification in muralism in England. A formal pathway would give aspiring artists the opportunity to easily develop the skills needed for a public art career. Based on the Scottish Qualification Authority’s higher national diploma, we developed a structure and outline for a curriculum in muralism rooted in project work and practical applications. We recommend that Wood Street Walls continue to develop this curriculum and seek accreditation through the SQA.
Link: Final Report IQP WSW Public Art Curriculum, WSW IQP Final Presentation

Executive Summary 

Problem Statement

Employing over 2.1 million individuals in the UK, the creative sector is fundamental to the UK’s social and cultural scene. This includes careers ranging from self-employed freelance designers to those in the performing arts. Specifically, public artists and muralists play a critical role in the community by communicating ideas, preserving local history and culture, and increasing the economic value of the areas around them through public pieces of art. Despite this role, there is a severe lack of formal education in this vocational area for artists seeking to develop their skills as public artists or trying to pursue this career as a professional pathway. Although degrees or other qualifications in similar fields are available, such as graphic design and fine arts, they do not properly prepare emerging artists for the conditions, environments, and interactions associated with working in the field of public arts. 

Wood Street Walls, a creative community interest company located in London, England, focuses on creating a link between communities through public art and recognizes that there is no formal or accredited program for muralism in either the UK or other parts of the world. Our team was tasked with developing a prototype curriculum for a program in public art and muralism, focusing on identifying what is currently offered and determining the missing components that artists would be expected to know when becoming a professional in the field. 

Our goal is to produce a framework for such a qualification that can later become an accredited program. If such a qualification were to be accredited and standardized, it would help to make those who have earned it more desirable to employers or even set them up to solicit and conduct business of their own.


The main objective of our project was to analyze existing art and vocational education programs in order to develop a curriculum for supporting a qualification in muralism specifically within England. To do so, we focused on the following four objectives

  1. Identify current vocational and higher education courses in the United Kingdom that could be integrated into a muralism curriculum and flag the missing components that would be critical in a muralism qualification.
  2. Evaluate stakeholder perspectives on the need for a curriculum and qualification in muralism.
  3. Assess how muralism is practiced in different countries and what levels of training and support are available.
  4. Explore potential frameworks and curriculum for a new “Institute of Public Art” as an agent for providing professional qualifications.

While pursuing these objectives, we used a mixed-methods approach including academic research, observing mural installation projects, interviews, surveys, and communication with other creative organizations and qualifying programs both in and outside the UK.

Findings and Recommendations

There are various programs in the arts within the UK; however, there are none that address the fundamentals and practice of public art or muralism. We began by reviewing the structure of vocational education in the UK as well as the existing graphic arts and design programs offered by a selection of colleges and universities. The majority of programs were focused on fine arts, graphic design, as well as other topics including animation, sculpture, and animation. Skills such as visual art basics, understanding of composition, and art history were in these programs and will be included in the final curriculum. We recommend that Wood Street Walls conduct similar research to identify other programs that might contribute to a public art and muralism curriculum, such as programs in the construction trades. For example, courses that discuss scaling a small-scale sketch towards a larger piece may provide insight towards potential course topics and specific content in a muralism curriculum, and Wood Street Walls can help to solidify this content towards becoming an accredited program.

We supplemented these course reviews with 9 interviews, composed of 11 individuals. From these 11, there were 2 artists, 4 creative organizations, 3 educational faculty, and 2 students. Both artists expressed that they often had to learn while in the workforce, as there is no formal education program for muralism. These individuals indicated they would have benefited from more formal training and they believe there is sufficient demand to warrant more vocational training in these areas. We determined missing components in current programs including administration, business, and construction skills that artists utilize within the field. Interviewees had also emphasized field- and practice-based work within the curriculum. 

All interviewees identified components that they had been surprised with or learned over the course of their career, including the importance of community engagement, marketing, and basic administration skills. From both students and artists, they explained that programs were often too broad and did not go in depth towards a particular topic, or only had provided a specialized form of art (i.e., fine arts, graphic design, sculpture, architecture). We determined that visual arts skills specialized towards muralism (i.e., doodle gridding, wall preparation and materials, spray painting) were lacking in current accredited art qualifications.

Figure ES1. Flowchart for proposed muralism curriculum framework

Figure ES2. Visual of all optional units included in proposed muralism curriculum framework

Based on these reviews and interviews, we identified the structure, components, and general contents for a model curriculum in public art. We utilized the United Kingdom National Curriculum and the National Curriculum for Art and Design to supplement the course development, using the published standards to shape the different modules and units within the program. This model curriculum includes six modules (Figure ES1) on (1) Safety, (2) Legality and Policy, (3) Business and Finance, (4) Visual Arts, (5) Muralism and Public Art in the World, as well as (6) Further Art Exploration/Optional Units (Figure ES2). Based on feedback from educators and artists, we emphasized the need for practical, project-based learning. We also incorporated two capstone projects that would assess a student’s progress throughout the year and give them the opportunity to work on a large-scale project with a mentor. As a result, we recommend that Wood Street Walls continue to develop and clarify the content and structure of the curriculum based on stakeholder inputs. This involves further outreach into the community towards educational professionals within art programs, in addition to national creative organizations and public artists.

In each of these modules, there are underlying subunits that break the higher level topics in smaller categories. Each of these units was specifically created to address common problems or challenges that muralists face. Specifically in the safety module, the primary goal was to prepare students for working in the field and taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others when working as an artist. In this module, there are two units, Safety and Sustainability and Construction, which include the following proposed classes:

To ensure compatibility with current academic programs in England, we developed an HND/HNC curriculum based on the UK National Curriculum and SQA Qualification standards, focusing on components including duration and required credits. Based on these guidelines, the course will be offered over 2 years for an HND qualification and provides the flexibility for a student to leave after one year of courses with an HNC qualification. These qualifications are made up of a combination of mandatory and optional units. In our curriculum, the mandatory units provide artists with the fundamentals needed as a muralist, while the optional units provide artists the opportunity to define their own individual artistic style through choosing the classes that best fit the needs of their creative practice. We recommend that WSW begins to pursue accreditation for the curriculum from accreditation authorities, such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), to help establish this framework.

With the creation of our muralism framework, we hope to see a new standardization in the field by providing aspiring artists a clear entry pathway into the profession, encouraging them to pursue their passion and allowing them to be prepared for their work after completing the program.