‘Poem Houses’ for Understanding Leadership


The brainchild of artist-educator Brigid Collins, a ‘poem house’ is a unique three-dimensional art form that uses words and assemblage. Poem houses are artefacts that provide opportunities for exploring the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of an idea, informed by poetry, through visual and tactile forms. Collins asserts that poem houses can be used effectively in the areas of leadership and service. Making artefacts can encourage deep learning, leading to an innovative and arts-based approach to learning about leadership and management.

Louise Grisoni and Brigid Collins regularly host poem house workshops for leaders and managers in corporations or for leadership development programmes. On these multi-day workshops, participants are invited to bring a favourite poem, song, or piece of creative writing that relates to their roles as leaders or managers.

Participants use the preparatory stage of the workshop to relate their poem to a focus question, such as ‘what does leadership in my centre/faculty mean to me?’, and then plan how to visually represent these abstract ideas. The following day, participants bring found objects from home and use tools and materials from the workshop to create their poem houses. The workshop ends with a reflection, often written, that links their learning to work-based applications of leadership.

The participants found that they developed “reflective skills, inquiry skills, acknowledgement of levels and limits of technical expertise, and emotional intelligence” from the workshop.  All of the participants felt some anxiety at the beginning of the workshop, but once the making process had begun, most became completely absorbed in the task, working collaboratively with others in the group. Overall, Grisoni and Collins are convinced that the act of making an artefact can serve as a ‘powerful touchstone’ for learning for future leaders.


Louise Grisoni and Brigid Collins. “Sense making through poem houses: an arts-based approach to understanding leadership.” Visual Studies, 27:1 (2012): 35-47. DOI: 10.1080/1472586X.2012.642956