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Multisensory Immersive Exhibitions as Sites for Social Emotional Learning

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posted on 01.11.2017, 00:00 by Lauren Leving
This thesis examines artist created immersive exhibitions situated within contemporary art institutions and the ways they foster social emotional learning (SEL). SEL is equated to life skills including critical thinking, coping with stress, emotion regulation, effective communication, and self-awareness. For the purposes of this thesis, I define immersive art exhibits as exhibitions conceived and produced by living artists and that are multisensory, engaging at least one sense in addition to sight. By using four specific exhibitions as case studies: Free Roses by Alex da Corte at MASS MoCA, Until by Nick Cave at MASS MoCA, Where have you gone—where are you going? Wolfgang Laib’s permanent installation at the Phillips Collection, and Who cares for the sky? a 2016 exhibit by Sabina Ott for Hyde Park Art Center, my research aims to prove that immersive exhibitions cultivate SEL and cultivate critical thinking abilities. In addition to scholarly research, I conducted visitor surveys at these sites and spoke with MASS MoCA Curator, Denise Markonish, Phillips Collection Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs, Klaus Ottmann and artists Nick Cave and Sabina Ott. Employing the findings from the above-mentioned case studies and supplemental research, this thesis concludes that large-scale immersive exhibitions that shift away from traditional artifact-and-object-centric display practices function as an effective style of visitor engagement. Furthermore, they successfully foster Social Emotional Learning, especially because the human brain has evolved to most efficiently learn through multisensory practices as they best approximate the ways we acquire knowledge in natural environments.



Quinn, Therese


Quinn, Therese


Museum & Exhibition Studies

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Ise, Claudine Peters Quinn, Allison

Submitted date

August 2017

Issue date