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Fostering Creativity and Community: The ART Connect Project at the University of Malta Library

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Discover how the University of Malta Library is not just a repository of knowledge, but a hub of creativity and collaboration. The ART Connect Project infuses art into this academic space, bringing vibrancy and engagement to its community. In this article, delve into the initiative’s aspirations, the fostering of a holistic environment, and the transformative power of artistic expression within the university setting.

The Library is, in many ways, the beating heart of the University of Malta (UM). The pulse of intellectual life can be felt most profoundly amongst the quiet shelves lined with books and the many students and academics lining the Library’s work desks with their noses deep in their projects. In this sense, the Library is also symbolic of the University’s overall health and vitality, so it is important to balance serious work with serious play.

What better way to take the atmosphere up a notch than to invite artists into the space to help break the ice? The ART Connect Project aims to do exactly that. ART Connect seeks to engage its visitors on a deeper level that goes beyond the usual routine of getting tasks and work done in the Library. Artists from all departments and of all levels are invited to showcase their works at the UM Library on a rotation basis, with the added fun of an exhibition opening night each semester. 

I spoke to Ryan Scicluna, one of the assistant librarians and outreach specialists in charge of the initiative, who is championing these ideas of community and creativity within the Library’s walls. Speaking to him, I had the chance to glimpse into his office. His walls are lined with art prints and pop culture memorabilia. He’s a self-proclaimed ‘geek by nature’, and his enthusiasm about the project and his own diverse interests are evident. There’s no doubt that he is truly excited about the possibility of opening up the Library to different expressions. 

‘The ART Connect Project is not just about hanging artwork on the Library walls; it’s about fostering a holistic sense of well-being within the University community,’ he explains. ‘It’s about creating an environment where creativity thrives, where individuals can find solace and inspiration amid the rigours of academic life. This initiative understands that the health of the University can be reflected in the state of its library. So, it goes beyond showcasing art to engage in charitable activities.’ In the future, the Library will be planning similar initiatives such as ‘Chat-with-a-Librarian.’ Instead of bombarding students with information during Freshers’ week, librarians will be available in a more casual setting to answer any queries that students might have a few weeks after Freshers’. 

The guiding principles for the ART Connect Project are truly commendable, as they aim to recognise the Library as a shared space that encourages interactions and partnerships among faculties and departments throughout the year through various continuous initiatives. Ryan playfully references the beloved TV show Art Attack from his childhood, underscoring the nostalgia and creativity that art can invoke. The project is structured into seasons that run throughout the year, each offering a unique opportunity for artists to showcase their work. These exhibitions serve as more than just a display; they are networking events, where artists and art enthusiasts come together to celebrate creativity.

The project is open to all forms of art, from traditional paintings to short stories and artistic interventions, limited only by the artist’s creativity. In the future, themed exhibitions may encourage artists to explore unconventional boundaries. The final selection of artworks is carried out by the librarians, offering artists insight into how their work is received and appreciated within the academic community.

The evolution of the ART Connect Project has been a journey of dedication and transformation. Inspired by the vision of new librarians and a desire to revamp the Library’s decor, what was once a seed of an idea has now matured into a vibrant platform for artistic expression, collaboration, and community building.
The ART Connect Project aims to connect people through creativity, foster collaboration, and transform spaces, inviting artists and art enthusiasts to celebrate the power of art. Detailed guidelines for art submissions are available, and the project follows a timeline with multiple seasons for exhibitions. For inquiries, contact the outreach office at 2340 2541 or library@um.edu.mt.

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