The Green Studio

Located on the grounds of the George Mason University’s Art and Design Campus, the Green Studio offers students a living studio in which to creatively explore the interdependence of cultural and biological systems.

The Green Studio exists, as any working art studio does, in constant flux and develops organically through the relationship artists form with the ecology of the site.

The Concept

Green Studio Bicycle Composter
Green Studio Bicycle Composter

The Green Studio, founded by Professor Mark Cooley in 2010 as a work and exhibition space dedicated to student projects exploring environmental and ecological art. The concept of an externalized art studio challenges conventional approaches to landscapes as master-planned perpetually finished products. The Green Studio also challenges the notion of the art studio as a place where artists retreat from the world, while repositioning the artist within the contingencies of a living space with its art materials embedded in a functional ecosystem. The goal of work in the Green Studio is not to create in spite of the world, but rather in relation to it. In this sense, traditional art and design concerns of creating aesthetic relationships (whether on the canvas or in the landscape) are reshaped to include ecological and social relationships and thereby expanding the possibilities for artist engagement in taking on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Finally, The Green Studio is not contained in any one physical space. It exists as conceptual space for exploring the role of art and design in building meaningful, creative, critical, and supportive relationships between people and the earth’s life support systems. The Green Studio can materialize anywhere and anytime an artistic act forms a conscious relationship with an ecological process, and renders the opposing concepts of “nature” and “culture” as inadequate terms for creating a sustainable future.

EcoArt Class

Students from the EcoArt class in the Green Studio
Students from the EcoArt class in the Green Studio

EcoArt is a university synthesis course offered by the School of Art which brings together ideas, tools and methods from across a spectrum of arts, sciences, progressive agriculture, and folk traditions with an ultimate interest in forming sustainable and creative relationships with the earth’s life support systems. The course assumes that the environmental problems we face are largely the product of culture, and as such, require cultural responses. Eco Art explores current discourse on art, ecology, and environmentalism, while challenging students to conceptualize and make engaging, creative, and ecologically informed responses to their world.

The course serves as an introduction to EcoArt by creating a context for course members to:

  • Examine the precedence and present case for making art as an ecological practice by studying the history of ecologically informed art practice and considering the political/economic (and therefore ecological) function of the modern art canon;
  • Develop vocabulary, knowledge and practical skills useful in making creative, ecologically informed decisions in art and life;
  • Create individual and group projects that respond to cultural and ecological conditions;
  • Developing methods of evaluating human works in relation to their ideological and material impacts on the world.