Working closely with a2ru, ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan was awarded a $500,000, three-and-a-half year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2012 for the purpose of creating the first comprehensive guide to best practices in the integration of arts practice in U.S. research universities.

Surveying The Landscape: Arts Integration at Research Universities, which was published in November 2015, identifies models, obstacles, implementation strategies, costs, and impact on students and faculty as well as on research, practice, and teaching in other knowledge areas. With this award, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has enabled a2ru to make major progress toward its mission of integrating arts practice into the research university.

Research Project Principal Investigator 
Laurie Baefsky, D.M.A.

Research Project Director 
Bruce M. Mackh, PhD

Research Team 
Lauren Fretz Thompson
David Hiemstra
Malcolm MacLachlan

Research Reports 
Surveying The Landscape: Arts Integration at Research Universities is a review of best practices and challenges for arts integration in higher education. This final report is the result of a comprehensive three-year study funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is authored by Dr. Bruce M. Mackh. The publication was designed by Doug Barrett, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (an a2ru partner institution). A downloadable copy of Surveying The Landscape: Arts Integration at Research Universities is available as a free download at the HathiTrust Digital Library. A print copy is available via Amazon for $25.00.

ArtsEngine Mellon Research Project Round I Interim Reports:

Research Plan 
With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and ArtsEngine we arrived at the conclusion of a three-year study of cutting edge research and curricula in which the arts are integrated with other disciplines at U.S. research universities. Through this study we are beginning to see how this transformation is manifesting across the country.

Dr. Bruce M. Mackh conducted site visits at leading research universities, videotaping classes, exhibitions, demonstrations, performances, lectures, and interviews with colleagues—from provosts to assistant professors—across a wide range of disciplines who are working to integrate arts and design practice into their universities. In the process, Dr. Mackh developed a wealth of information and documentary evidence, which has been shared with our colleagues across the country. The interim reports are part of the a2ru Knowledge Base.

The Mellon Interim Reports include: examples of these transformative research and integrative curricular efforts; the models that explicate such instances and examples; the challenges they face in the contemporary research university; how they circumvent these challenges; and emerging themes for future research.

Research interviews were conducted at the following universities:

  • Arizona State University
  • Boston University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
  • Harvard University
  • Indiana University
  • Iowa State University
  • James Madison University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • King’s College, London, UK
  • Louisiana State University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Otis College of Art and Design
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Stanford University
  • Syracuse University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Transart Institute
  • Tufts University
  • The University of Alabama [Tuscaloosa]
  • The University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado at Boulder
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Utah
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington University in St. Louis






A second grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in the amount of $800,000, was awarded to a2ru in July 2015 in support of this arts forward work. The grant, which spans a three-year term, funds the SPARC Project: Supporting Practice in Arts, Research and Curricula, a three-year initiative that will allow a2ru to disseminate best practices in the integration of arts practice at research universities. This research phase will be lead by Gabriel Harp, who will begin his role as Research Project Director in January 2016. A two-year research fellow position in support of the a2ru SPARC Project is currently open.

Principal Investigator
Laurie Baefsky, a2ru Executive Director

Research Team
Gabriel Harp, a2ru Research Director
Maryrose Flanigan, a2ru Associate Director
Edgar Cardenas, Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow

ArtsEngine Mellon Research Project Round II Interim Reports:





ArtsEngine, an interdisciplinary program at the University of Michigan, and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a network of 44 research universities committed to fostering arts-integrated research, teaching, and practice, has been awarded its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bolster their work.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu announced 10 awards totaling $550,000 to that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life. Included in this announcement is a Research: Art Works award of $20,000 to ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) based at the University of Michigan to support the development of an evidence-based taxonomy describing the value of arts and design for higher education, communities, and workforce development.  

As part of the project, researchers will synthesize data from an in-depth literature review and from 472 individual interviews that previously have been conducted with faculty, administrators, and students at approximately 46 U.S. universities, about their use of arts and design. Also to be included in the synthesis are survey data concerning the arts engagement of University of Michigan students, including a longitudinal cohort. Multiple qualitative and quantitative research approaches will be used to build the taxonomy, which will be vetted and refined in participatory design workshops. Results from the study are expected to guide the design of a research instrument that can validate features of the taxonomy. These tools would give educators and policy-makers a greater understanding of the role that arts and design play in higher education and in achieving broader societal outcomes. The University of Michigan researchers represent the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU), a national organization.


Responding to the growing number of arts-integrative collaborations and programs that exist across the landscape of higher education in the U.S., in May 2011, the University of Michigan’s ArtsEngine—a body that drives arts-integrative collaborations among the arts, architecture, and engineering units—convened deans and other academic leaders from top research universities across the country to identify and begin addressing institutional barriers to arts-integrative efforts. From this meeting, the ArtsEngine National Network was formed. As the ArtsEngine National Network deepened, it became clear that the numerous research, curricular, and other extant initiatives were driving a much larger movement—a “creative turn”—in U.S. higher education. In an effort to research, identify, fund, and solidify this movement, this group of leaders realized that a more robust response was required. As a result, a2ru was officially founded in December 2012.

The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities is currently housed in ArtsEngine - an interdisciplinary arts initiative supported by the four north campus schools and colleges (College of Engineering, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, School of Music, Theatre & Dance), School of Information, Office of Research, and Provost's Office at the University of Michigan.