Artists sustainability survey

Alex Brown (Artsadmin) and Tilly Hogrebe (Bow Arts) have created thisartists’ survey as part of a research programme called Accelerator, led by Julie’s Bicycle, on advanced sustainability in the arts and cultural sector. Focussing on sustainable arts practices and the circular economy, the survey aims to map existing art practices and group them around sites of potential exchange; materials, knowledge and skills, time, money, which feed into environmental and socio-economic sustainable goals.

If you have an interest in sustainability and would like to be involved in a series of workshops, based on alternative art economies and circularity, then please fill out the survey here. 

In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on climate change, outlining that we have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. As a result, now more than ever, environmental sustainability is something each and every one of us should think about, both individually and as part of our networks, in our private as well as our professional lives. This thinking needs to become second nature and inform all our actions.

In a collaboration between Bow Arts and Artsadmin, and under the Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England Accelerator programme, we are looking at environmental sustainability within artist studios and in connection to artist practices. What materials are being used, and are environmental or other ethical aspects taken into account when these are bought? Are there ways to reduce and re-use materials, rather than recycle and dispose of? And do socio-economic factors such as time and money have an impact on how green an artist is in their practice? We are looking for answers to those questions and will aim to establish ways in which we as arts organisations can inspire as well as assist artists to take sustainability in their practices to a new level.

One of the models we are looking at in order to achieve this is Circular Economy. 

Traditional behaviour patterns often follow the model of take-make-dispose. For this it has to be assumed that there are infinite resources, which of course we know not to be the case. In addition, simple disposal at the end of a product’s life has a huge detrimental impact on the environment and should therefore no longer be an option, and in fact should never have been.

A circular economy model on the other hand is a closed loop system, designed to keep in any resources for as long as possible, get the most value out of them while in use, and eventually ensure sustainable ways of disposal. This way waste and pollution will be designed out of the system.

Ways to achieve this include maintenance & repair (of tools and equipment), reuse & sharing, upcycling, and only eventually, recycling. If you are interested in exploring the concept of Circular Economy further, have a look at Julie’s Bicycle’s resource on the topic and follow our progress on this project!

So, how will we get there?

The beginning of the process is to gain a greater understanding of current systems of sustainability and exchange within creative practice. Whether you currently consider your practice to be engaged with sustainability or not, we would like to hear from all artists so that we can effectively map material and resource use in the sector and measure how practitioners consider sustainability. There are no wrong answers to this survey, think of it as a process in order to collectively discover best practice. What matters most is the appetite for progress.

We are thinking about the circular economy through different prisms, primarily environmental sustainability, how our relationship to materials might impact artistic decision-making. If an embedded economy is the systemic whole, the actors within can only consume the amount of energy that has been inputted to keep sustainable equilibrium. We are considering our relationship with materials first but in doing so, we also examine the sites of exchange that are forged together to make an economy. This is not only in a financial sense of an economy but an artistic one, by dissecting exchanges and how the management of resources functions in a social system, we can re-examine how we create and work within a living ecosystem.

We hope in the first instance that you are interested in some of these themes of how practices centred around the boldness of art-making which allows us to navigate a collective future of environmental justice. We want to foster debate, innovative practice and cooperation that working sustainably encourages. How can this our relationship to materials and suggestions of alternative economies prefigure a regenerative future? How can we foster a community of sustainable studio users?

By asking these questions, we’re hoping to bring together groups of artists who are challenged and inspired by these ideas, and open to new ways of thinking in the way they approach their art process and production. It would be fantastic if we could get as many artists completing the survey as possible, this will be incredibly helpful in finding out about current practices. The workshops will be a chance to exchange knowledge with others on topics centred around artistic process and practice and will tackle advanced sustainability issues. The project will focus on collective action and collaboration and work like a peer exchange group facilitated by the 2 lead organisations.

To get involved in the workshops, please complete the survey and express your interest through the Google form. You should be interested in knowledge exchange that contributes to some research for Julie’s Bicycle Accelerator programme. The initial sessions will be centred around- 1) alternative economic models and the circular economy 2) sustainable material use. The subsequent sessions will be decided by the group but are likely to explore themes of collaboration, commons, time and money.

We’re really excited to be at the beginning of this journey and as we delve deeper into the idea of a creative economy that works for artists, more questions come up. We expect the next year of the Accelerator programme and path to circularity and sustainability to be challenging and enlightening in equal measure and it would be great if you joined us.

Photo by James Allen

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