Sustainability in Art

The visual arts play a significant role in sustainability, and in the social and environmental issues surrounding it. We encourage our students to think about their art work in a broad context, to understand its wider impact on our environment and society. The Dunedin School of Art at integrates sustainability issues into supervision, feedback and recommended reference material, as well as the theoretical and practical framing of research projects.

The Dunedin School of Art encourages sustainability within our programmes by: 

  • Implementing the use of non-toxic materials
  • Developing our knowledge of the correct use and disposal of chemicals and other waste materials
  • Considering sustainable methods for conserving art works
  • Disposing temporary artworks in a sustainable manner
  • Re­using materials, whenever possible
  • Increasing an awareness of digital sustainability.

All of our staff members are aware of the issues surrounding sustainability, both within the School itself, and in a wider environmental context. We teach our students how to protect themselves from toxic substances within the studio and we encourage them to explore the critical role of an artist within contemporary society. Students learn to value and look after their work and study environment, and we address ecological alternatives to classic techniques. We also discuss the use of natural versus man-made materials for artwork.

In addition to a broad sustainability focus, we also focus on the following issues:

  • Avoidance of toxic materials
  • Responsible disposal of materials
  • Use of chemical-free techniques such as solar-plated etching
  • Recycling of materials, e.g. through use of a ‘free box’ where unwanted items are donated for students to use in the creation of artworks
  • Working small-scale
  • Working incrementally
  • Transportability of work
  • Building support networks to sustain practices long-term
  • Working collaboratively to support practices long-term 
  • Understanding bi-cultural and multi-cultural issues
  • Engaging with environmental issues through specific projects.

The workshop studio system

A key element of study at the Dunedin School of Art revolves around the workshop studio system through which students are provided with hands-on experiential learning. Cohorts work together and communities are created within the larger body of the School. These interface with external communities through embedding their activities across the built environment of the city. Exhibitions, seminars and public workshops invite the public into the School. In these ways the disciplines taught in the School become highly visible. Students can choose from Ceramics, Electronic Arts, Jewellery & Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture or Textiles. These are supported by core subjects: Drawing and Art History & Theory.


Our programmes

Programmes are spread across tertiary levels 5-9. The Diploma in Ceramic Arts is the only distance programme of its kind in New Zealand. A three-year Bachelor of Visual Arts feeds into postgraduate study in a range of options from honours to an internationally acclaimed Master of Fine Arts. Students’ work is project-based and engages with the issues of our times: ecology, animal ethics, globalisation, food politics, gender issues, inequality in the work place and many other topical concerns. Viewers are often moved in ways they cannot quite explain: after all, a picture says more than a thousand words.


Our place in the art community

The Dunedin School of Art is a tight-knit community which values intelligence, imagination, passion and discipline. It serves its students and the wider public and it contributes to the cultural density within all its networks. These extend to members of its permanent external advisory committee, other stakeholders, and communities of practice. Through the politics of friendship, the School gifts its expertise to other schools and bodies worldwide and receives reciprocal support. Special projects connect the School to its alumni, future students and communities. These are: Art in a Living Campus and City, Internationalisation, Digital Capability for Social Connectivity, Community Service, and the Dunedin School of Art Foundation.