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. 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.
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…
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.
 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.
 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.
 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 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." 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).
 Nyrupaya Kaika quoted by APY Art Centre Collective, accessed 26 June, 2021
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.