Case Study: University of Canberra

Images by The University of Canberra, Danielle Mate Sullivan and Graffik Paint Two students playing a game of table tennis on one of four POPP HERO tables at the University of Canberra

The tables provide a really distinct medium to work with and we are looking forward to seeing how the artwork is received and helps build pride in UC.

When walking through the inner city UC campus you’ll find four POPP HERO tables scattered through the courtyards, terraces and green spaces – adorned with local artwork. The tables have recently been installed as part of a broader University programme to activate and enhance existing spaces and to create hubs of activity for students to enjoy.

We love how the University has embraced the artwork process to connect students to their environment and local community, and strategically placed the tables to heighten students’ on-campus experience.

To learn more about the project, we sat down with Duncan McConchie, the University’s Space Planner, to talk about how outdoor ping pong has fitted into their activation programme.

POPP: What was the main driver behind purchasing 4x HERO tables?

DM: The tables were purchased as a part of a broader programme to activate the concourse and grounds of the University of Canberra. These tables were partnered with other targeted improvements to create clusters of activity.

POPP: How did you decide on each of the table locations?

DM: The tables are located in two areas, one (with the two tables currently applied with artwork) are close to our Student Accommodation area, and hope to create additional spaces where our residents can come out and play and help bring additional activity and life to our main retail and food area. The other is located at the northern end of our concourse close to many of our teaching spaces and faculties, to provide spaces for student to relax and hang out when they are not in class. The area is a part of a larger activation with a pop up space and new furniture.

POPP: Tell us a bit about the artwork – how did you go about engaging this artwork and why were these particular artists chosen?

DM: One table (the pink one) has been painted by a local graffiti/street artist Graffik Paint. We’ve had some other work done on campus by this crew and they are well known in Canberra so they were a natural selection for us who could help get them completed before O-Week.

The second table (the blue one) was painted by a Sydney based Indigenous artist Danielle Mate Sullivan. Danielle has done a number of public artworks and was recommended to UC’s Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership and Strategy in consultation with Aunty Ros, our Ngunnawal Elder in Residence. Danielle indicated that the artwork reflects “a typical Aboriginal story using symbolism of journey lines and meeting places, relevant for uni students with people coming from different mobs, meeting/gathering on their ‘journey’.

POPP: Do you have plans to paint the other two tables?

DM: We are really proud and excited to have Danielle’s artwork on campus, and are working on engaging a local Ngunnawal artist for the third table to expand opportunities to showcase work of Indigenous artists. The last table is likely to be a student led project and we are excited to also bring students artwork out in such a permanent and prominent way.

POPP: What benefits are provided by incorporating artwork into campus spaces?

DM: The artwork helps us connect students to different stories, in the place of Danielle’s artwork and the planned student artwork. The tables provide a really distinct medium to work with and we are looking forward to seeing how the artwork is received and helps build pride in UC.

POPP: Do you feel that providing casual recreation opportunities for students enhances their on-campus experience?

DM: Providing space for casual sports, hanging out or just chilling (when it isn’t too hot or cold) is an essential component of the students experience on our campus, and these tables are part of a broader plan to enhance our campus for those who live here and those who visit weekly or daily! Uni can take up a lot of time and be very stressful, so spaces to unwind, relax and have fun are essential.