The Integrated Studio | Sustainable Art Studio - marymattinglystudio

The Integrated Studio | Sustainable Art Studio

The Integrated Studio | Sustainable Art Studio - download full PDF

Ecological Studio Practice, regenerative communal studio art practices by Mary Mattingly

I know that the visual arts have the potential to make big contributions to meeting the climate crisis with courage and creativity and that everything we do as artists matters.

These are my guidelines for a more socially integrated and ecologically-interconnected studio.

This may seem like a small gesture, but creating a more regenerative and ecologically-integrated studio while reducing my carbon footprint is important, and for me, it’s always a work in progress. So this is my working document for my studio. It contains things I’m working toward and trying to get better at.

Please be in touch, let me know what speaks to you, what doesn’t, and even what else you’re doing so I can improve!

The Integrated Art Studio: My guidelines for a more socially integrated and ecologically interconnected studio


A Systemic Approach:

A studio is a living, interconnected, organism. It is in a constant state of evolution, adaptation, and modification. Embrace a holistic approach that considers all aspects of a studio's function, from art-making to daily operations.

Implement a systemic approach for every facet of the studio, including material and energy use, communication, and management. Ensure that ecological, social, and economic sustainability is integrated seamlessly into each of these areas. 

Focus on diversity, longevity, and sustainability (ecological, economic, and social). This focus should guide decision-making processes and long-term strategies.

Value learning and flexibility over striving for perfect net zero. Emphasize the importance of sustainable and ethical practices over rigid rules. Let this general ethic guide the studio's principles.


Multiple Functions of Art

Art is active and representative. It is poetic, symbolic, pedagogical, and social. Expand the scope of the studio’s creative purpose. It’s important to remember that as important as action is interaction, conversation, questioning, and discussion.

Art is a vital necessity. Accept responsibility for the studio and all surroundings including its potential ecological and social impacts. 


Collective Work:

Build a collective workplace through space and tool sharing.  This environment encourages stronger support for one another and builds community. 

Care for all involved:

Working with local partners for installations and material sourcing not only supports the community but can make a less harmful ecological impact, no matter the project. 

Art is a collective endeavor. Acknowledge the contributions of not only artists but also professionals such as assistants, framers, curators, and art technicians who play vital roles in the creation and presentation of art.

Prioritize the well-being of all individuals involved in the artistic process, not just the artists themselves. Listen for, recognize and address any issues related to precarity, stress, or overwork.


An Integrated Studio involves thoughtful planning and a commitment to the principles set into motion. It is also much more economical and kind. 

Some things to consider to have a smaller carbon footprint in your workspace


Aside from the basics, like installing energy-efficient lighting or unplugging appliances when they’re not in use, building a closed-loop energy system from renewable energy sources is next-level. I’ve tried everything from solar (with help) to biogas from compost. Each technology needs to be appropriate for the surroundings. More on this soon!

Check email for one hour a day, maximum. Limit web surfing and social media time. Do as much of your computer work offline as possible.

Tools and Materials:

For me, I’m a gleaner and I find materials. I started saving everything and reusing everything I don’t use now for a later project. I make it a method and the studio is a part of the method.

Remember the benefits of a pencil and an eraser. Remembering to use them made me take more care with my notes and made paper reuse easy. I work with people who make their own paper by blending used paper from the recycling bin, which makes a beautiful surface. 

Trade, borrow, and find art supplies and materials that are eco-friendly, non-toxic, and ecologically regenerative. Share resources and tools in a collaborative shared studio space, from art supplies to equipment. 

Mending and Maintaining:

For me, an artwork is initially determined through the process of making. Then, I think through maintenance: it should either be regenerative, biodegradable, or inert. Its maintenance needs should not come at an ecological cost.  

Weather Conditions:

It’s often overlooked, but designing your studio time around the weather makes a lot of sense. Starting early with breaks during the hottest part of the day, design your studio layout with natural ventilation in mind.

I’ve had so many studios with large, thin-pane windows that make heating a huge expense. In the winter they need to be better covered. Find anything to put in front of them! Insulate walls, ceilings, and floors to maintain a comfortable temperature and reduce energy consumption just by the way you arrange your work supplies in front of exterior walls. 

Water Conservation:

Many people use heavy amounts of water during the day without realizing it. Often, water consumption can not meet collection. Consider rainwater harvesting, and reusing the water.

Run used sink water into a simple plant filtration system. Grow vegetables at the end of the system. This is fun, easy, and rewarding, and I’ll include more information soon! 

Waste Reduction:

Remove the trash bin from the workspace. Set up a reuse station for paper, plastics, glass, metals, and compost. Work toward a system where all waste is reused within the studio ecosystem. 

Shipping and Sustainable Transportation:

When shipping, use Rail or Sea Freight.

 When feasible, I choose sustainable transportation options when commuting to and from the studio, such as biking, walking, carpooling, subway, bus. I’ll add more information soon about artists with walking practices.

Cleaning Products:

DIY this: Water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and a cleaning cloth. Recipes are all over the internet and making my own takes as long as going to the store to sift through all the toxic cleaning products on the market. 


In this document, “studio” is meant to be a flexible term for a workspace or everything and everyone surrounding an art practice.

Julie’s Bicycle has done a good job of describing the facts:


I also love “On Institutional Permaculture” by Guillaume Désanges.


Recently rewritten to encompass additional thoughts from conversations with Clancy Philbrick, Chris Jensen, and Jake Berstein who reminded me that there’s no art on a dead planet.


Back to blog