Otago Polytechnic

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.