At its simplest, an art studio is the place where an artist works. No two studios look the same, in that no two artists are the same. A studio reflects the spatial, material, geographic, social and creative needs of an artist, and can be anything from a soaring warehouse of heavy machinery to a desk with a laptop.

A studio is a specialised topoi (location) for the complex dynamics between artistic processes and labour, an artist’s identity and the final outcome – the work of art itself.[1] Out of this dynamism, contemporary artists have, and continue to, conceptualise of their studio in myriad ways. A studio might function as a laboratory, as a location for experimentation, failure and to test new ideas. It may be a stage, where the acts of looking and configuring works of art helps an artist to draw out their meaning. It might be a meeting place for bringing disparate ideas, materials or people together. A studio can even operate as a work of art, a kind of meta manifesto of an artist’s evolving philosophies and material concerns.[2]

Even in the twenty-first century, an art studio conjures persistent images of a dingy garret, the artist squirreled away in isolation. In truth, however, contemporary artists work in a multitude of ways. Many artists work individually within a communal setting. They share the costs of running a studio with other artists, by working alongside them under the same roof. Artists who produce performances or relational works of art might find themselves doing peripatetic work in communities. In this sense, their studio is decentralised. Some studios are temporary. An artist might be invited into specialised facilities – from tapestry-making workshops to machine learning institutes – on a project basis. Or, they might join the rotating carousel of studio residencies associated with contemporary galleries and cultural organisations the world over. Some studios are more permanent, perhaps simply an extension of an artist’s home.

Another distinct studio model is an art centre. In Australia, this term often refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned organisations that support contemporary Indigenous artists, and their communities, across all stages of practice – from production to sale. While some art centres occupy large tin sheds and others boast architecturally designed facilities, they fundamentally contradict the premise that artists work alone. Brian Tucker, traditional owner and Director of Karlayura Group, describes their unique communal structure:

The Art Centre provides, firstly, a focus for the maintenance of the culture of the region. It is a place where artists can congregate, check each other’s progress, seek opinions, joke and argue among themselves, paint, eat biscuits and drink tea, socialize, jump on the computer, make travel plans, undertake house-keeping tasks they would never perform in their own homes…[3]

Despite the sheer variety of over 110 art centres operating across the country, they share a common mission. Art centres provide essential space and autonomy for artists to practice culture, they foster economic resilience and independence, and are an intergenerational space, ideal for fostering and passing on knowledge to the next generation.

[1] Rachel Esner, Sandra Kisters and Ann-Sophie Lehmann, “Introduction,” in Hiding Making – Showing Creation: The Studio from Turner to Tacita Dean, ed. Rachel Esner, Sandra Kisters and Ann-Sophie Lehmann (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 9-10.

[2] Rachel Esner, “Introduction: Forms and Functions of the Studio from the Twentieth Century to Today”, in in Hiding Making – Showing Creation: The Studio from Turner to Tacita Dean, ed. Rachel Esner, Sandra Kisters and Ann-Sophie Lehmann (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013), 121-135.

[3] Submission by Mr Brian Tucker, “Chapter 4 – Art Centres,” in Indigenous Art - Securing the Future of Australia’s Indigenous visual arts and craft sector (Canberra: Parliament of Australia, published 20 June, 2007),

The APY Art Centre Collective

Freda Brady, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1961, Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Kunmanara Wawiriya Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c 1925, Pipalyatjara, South Australia, died 2021, Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Angkaliya Eadie Curtis, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1928, Miti, South Australia, Tjangili Tjapukula George, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1950, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Sandra Goodwin, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1969, near Mimili, South Australia, Beryl Jimmy, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1970, Fregon, South Australia, Nyurpaya Kaika Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1949, Mount Connor, South Australia, Iluwanti Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c 1944, Watarru, South Australia, Sylvia Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1965, Amata, South Australia, Tjungkara Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1969, Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Manyitjanu Lennon, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1940, outbush north of Watarru, South Australia, Betty Muffler, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1944, near Watarru, South Australia, Matjangka Nyukana Norris, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1956, Victory Downs Station, Northern Territory, Mary Katatjuku Pan, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1944, Rocket Bore, South Australia, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1963, near Perentie Bore, South Australia, Antjala Tjayangka Robin, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1941, Apu Ininti, South Australia, Alison Munti Riley, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1966, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Kunmanara Stanley, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1938, Wingellina, Western Australia, died 2020, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Carlene Thompson, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1950, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Maringka Tunkin, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1959, Mulga Park, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, Northern Territory, Puna Yanima, Yankunyjatjara people, South Australia, born 1955, De Rose Hill Station, South Australia, Yaritji Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1956, Rocket Bore, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Jeanne Wallatina, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1976, Indulkana, South Australia, Judy Wallatina, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1981, Indulkana, South Australia, Kungkarangkalpa – Seven sisters, 2016, Fregon, South Australia, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 300.0 x 500.0 cm; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2017, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artists and Ernabella Arts, Iwantja Arts, Kaltjiti Arts, Mimili Maku Arts, Tjala Arts, APY Art Centre Collective/Copyright Agency.

The APY Art Centre Collective is an Aboriginal-owned enterprise representing seven art centres situated on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands) in remote Central Australia, close to the northern border of South Australia. The Collective facilitates the careers of over 500 Aṉangu artists, leads nationally significant artistic collaborations with leading galleries in Australia, and internationally, and operates two contemporary commercial galleries of its own – one in the heart of Sydney, the other in Adelaide’s CBD.

The APY Art Centres represent a great diversity of artists working across a wide range of mediums, from traditional punu (wood carving) to digital photography. As Nyrupaya Kaika Burton, Board Director of the APY Art Centre Collective, describes, “Each APY Art Centre is the beating heart of their community. It is through the Art Centres we celebrate our culture, and keep our culture strong for future generations."[1] Among others, the APY Collective features Tjala Arts, representing the award-winning family collective, The Ken Sisters, and Iwantja Arts, home to some of the country’s leading contemporary painters – Betty Muffler, Vincent Namatjira, Kaylene Whiskey and Tiger Yaltangki. Ernabella Arts is also situated on the APY Lands, Australia’s oldest continuously running Indigenous Art Centre, known nationally for its pioneering ceramicists – Pepai Jangala Carroll and Alison Milyka Carroll.

The APY Art Centres are vital to their respective communities, not only in their economic value but also providing the artistic space, support and collaborative conditions to celebrate culture and share tjukurpa(ancestral stories and law).

[1] Nyrupaya Kaika quoted by APY Art Centre Collective, accessed 26 June, 2021

Alec Baker, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1932, Shirley Well, South Australia, Eric Mungi Kunmanara Barney, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1973, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Freda Brady, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1961, Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Moses Brady, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1993, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Michael Bruno, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia/ Luritja people Northern Territory, born 1994, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Angela Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1966, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Cisco Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1963, near Wingellina, South Australia, Kunmanara (Hector) Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1937, near Pipalyatjara, South Australia, died 2017, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Noel Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1994, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Kunmanara Carroll, Pitjantjatjara/Luritja people, South Australia/Northern Territory, born 1950, Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff), Northern Territory, died 2021, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Taylor Wanyima Cooper, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1940, Malara, a waterhole east of Pipalyatjara, South Australia, Margaret Ngilan Dodd, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1946, Sandy Bore, South Australia, Sammy Dodd, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1946, Winpiranganyi, South Australia, Jimmy Donegan, Ngaanyatjarra people, Western Australia/Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1940, Yapan near Ngatuntjarra bore, Western Australia, Maureen Douglas, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1966, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Kunmanara (Ronnie) Douglas, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1949, Umbeara, Northern Territory, died 2017, Amata, South Australia, Stanley Douglas, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1944, Kulgera, Northern Territory, Arnie Frank, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1960, Yanyarinyi (Kenmore Park), South Australia, Witjiti George, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1938, Lambina/Granite Downs Station, South Australia, Kunmanara (Gordon) Ingkatji, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1930, Titu, South Australia, died 2016, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Adrian Intjalki, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1943, Mimili, South Australia, Rupert Jack, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1951, Mimili, South Australia, Kunmanara Kaika Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1941, near Wingellina, Western Australia, died 2020, Alice Springs, Nyurpaya Kaika Burton, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1949, Mount Connor, South Australia, Naomi Kantjuriny, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1944, Victory Downs, South Australia, Kunmanara (Brenton) Ken, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1944, Willi Willi, south west of Amata, South Australia, died 2018, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Freddy Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1951, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Kunmanara (Ray) Ken, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1940, Amaruna, South Australia, died 2018, MutiTjulu, Northern Territory, Iluwanti Ken, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c 1944, Watarru, South Australia, Graham Kulyuru, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1939, Kunytjanu, South Australia, Kunmanara (Willy Muntjantji) Martin, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1950, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, died 2018, Kulgera, Northern Territory, Errol Morris, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1965, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Kevin Morris, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1984, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Northern Territory, Mark Morris, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1975, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Northern Territory, Peter Mungkuri, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1946, Fregon, South Australia, Vincent Namatjira, Western Aranda people, Northern Territory, born 1983, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Kunmanara (Tiger) Palpatja, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1920, Piltati, South Australia, died March 2012, Amata, South Australia, Mary Katatjuku Pan, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1944, Rocket Bore, South Australia, David Pearson, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1964, Indulkana, South Australia, Kunmanara (Jimmy) Pompey, Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1952, Gap Well, South Australia, died 2018, Port Augusta, South Australia, Aaron Riley, Walpiri people, Northern Territory, born 1974, Ali Curung, Northern Territory, Adrian Riley, Walpiri people, Northern Territory, born 1961, west of Ali Curung, Northern Territory, William Tjapaltjarri Sandy, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1951, Tanu Well, South Australia, Priscilla Singer, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1968, Port Augusta, South Australia, Keith Stevens, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1940, Granite Downs Station, South Australia, Lydon Stevens, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1967, Cundeelee, Western Australia, Bernard Tjalkuri, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1930, Waltja rockhole, South Australia, Lyndon Tjangala, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1994, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Mr Wangin, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born c.1939, Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, Ginger Wikilyiri, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1930, Kunumata, South Australia, Mick Wikilyiri, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people, South Australia, born 1938, Rocket Bore, Northern Territory, Mumu Mike Williams, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1952, Inturjanu between Kenmore Park and Pukatja (Ernabella), South Australia, died 2019, Mparntwe(Alice Springs), Northern Territory, Anwar Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1994, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Carol Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1972, Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Northern Territory, Frank Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1949, near Artuti, South Australia, Kamurin Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1994, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Marcus Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1998, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Roma Young, Ngaanyatjarra people, Western Australia/Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1952, Warburton, Western Australia, Yaritji Young, Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, born 1956, Rocket Bore, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, Kuḻaṯa Tjuṯa , 2017, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia, wood, spinifex resin, kangaroo tendon, plus 6 channel DVD with sound; Acquisition through Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art supported by BHP 2017, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artists and Ernabella Arts, Iwantja Arts, Kaltjiti Arts, Mimili Maku Arts, Tjala Arts, Ninuku Arts, Tjungu Palya, APY Art Centre Collective.

The Gallery’s Learning programs are supported by the Department for Education.

This education resource has been developed in collaboration with ACE Open and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Written by Dr. Belinda Howden with contributions from Louise Dunn, Kylie Neagle and Dr. Lisa Slade.