Royal West of England Academy, Shaping a Happy Academy, Autumn 2013 to present

Founded over 150 years ago, the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) is one of Britain’s four Academies of Art, housed in a magnificent Grade 2* listed purpose-built Art Gallery. As a much-loved institution at the historic heart of Bristol, there is immense potential for the RWA to be a flagship for the use of great art to promote well-being. Meanwhile, Bristol is the first city to create and embrace a Happy City ethos. At the core of the ‘Shaping a Happy Academy’ project was the development of a new strategic and capital plan for the museum, working with existing stakeholders and new partnerships to embrace Happy Museum principles. The project helped to ensure that environmental sustainability was factored into all planned development work and that the resulting plans ensured that the RWA would continue to be a sustainable, thriving and happy institution in the future.


The project vision was to be a BEACON for the visual art in the South West, to be valued as a key institution in the City and region. RWA strives to be somewhere that creates and nurtures happiness and wellbeing in its staff and visitors and is sustainable and resilient organisation.

Highlights included the fact the project strengthened the RWA application for Renaissance strategic funding from Arts Council England.  The focus on staff well-being led to new team spirit.  There was strengthened engagement with vulnerable communities and new partnerships with Happy City and others.   The project let to an increased pool of volunteers and local interest in the protect led to a higher income from visitors.

Challenges within the organisation meant that it was initially difficult to engage with Happy Museum thinking.