Art in Engineering: The hidden treasures of the McGill Art community

By Imane Chafi


As I was walking down the McConnell building to get to class, I saw the same blank walls hidden by colourful posters and bright designs inviting students to various events. However, I never really took the time to stop and look at the displayed activities. Many for coding competitions and workshops, and only a little for art. As many inventions and softwares have shown, engineering and art go hand in hand. They complement each other and provide new perspectives on either artistic sculptures that might use engineering and physics elements to create a stunning visual effect, or a creative input on a design project that helps engineerings think outside the box when designing a circuit.


I believe that the pursuit of artistic knowledge is a great tool that many engineers can use to their own advantage, and that learning an art can also help cope with the stress of midterms or exams in the engineering community. Indeed, if you’re thinking of learning to draw, but you’re not really sure where to start, you can always search for the art clubs at McGill. There is the Visual Art Society that has many exciting events where you can learn to paint, model draw and even watch movies.


They often have activities where you can join people who are just as passionate as you are about art to sketch sculptures and paintings in museums, like during one of their field trips at the Museum of Fine Arts. If you’re more into photography, you can join the Photography Student Society that organizes photo exhibition outings as a group, photography discussions, and they even have their own annual exhibition for which you can submit your work. There are also a lot of dance societies ranging from swing to ballet that you can join if you want to learn a new skill and be part of a community. The change of pace of engaging in the art world can help you develop some abilities that you wouldn’t normally pursue during some of your math or engineering classes, and the creative awareness that you’ll gain from those arts classes can improve the way you think and resolve problems. If you’re able to draw an accurate perception of your idea in more detail, then you’ll be able to reach more people and make them understand what you truly want to do. An example from the New York Times demonstrated this idea by showing how a vest designed to safely administer cardiopulmonary training to humans was rendered more realistic by adding an artistic touch to the product.

People began using it in abundance because it was more convincing and could give an accurate perception of what to do when someone is having a heart attack. Painting, for example, takes great patience and dedication, and an oil painting can take more than a week to paint if you’re taking your time and looking at the details of your work. Those soft skills you’ll acquire by learning an art will also help during interviews where employers will see the diverse number of competencies you’ve gained from the experience. Montreal is filled with incredible artistic activities for you to join such as a sculpture workshop named Atelier Forma where you can sculpt your own modern clay designs and paint them afterwards. The class provides you with all the materials and even heats up your designs in a high temperature oven, so you just need to come with your ideas for a clay vase or cup. It’s a great activity to do with friends or family and you’ll be able to gain more dexterity and become more perseverent.

Whether you are passionate about video game design or building self-driving cars, learning a form of art will immensely benefit your view on how we interact with the world and how to make efficient designs while thinking outside of the norm. The greatest inventions were made using multiple disciplines, and as Theo Jansen once said, “the walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.”