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Should the art(s) be considered in the discourse on sustainability?

Nowadays sustainability is part of our everyday life. We are more aware of the environmental capacity to maintain natural resources, as we try to adjust our lifestyle according to it. Likewise, sustainability is also impacting the work of artist across the world, raising the question what does art to do with sustainability? and how can art in its various forms contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle?

Based on a recent report1, the creative sector has an important role in raising awareness on climate change and encouraging sustainable social, economic, and environmental practices across the world. Nonetheless, it requires a shift both in behavior and thinking. The question we can ask is “do we prioritize art which activates sustainability? All choices can have an effect”, reminds Outi Turpeinen2.

The rising trend of art from nature can support environmental and social sustainability in many ways. But first, we need to define what is sustainable. To quote Veli-Markus Tapio3 “in everyday discourse, the sustainability of the society as whole takes precedence. However, when talking about art and sustainability, it might be a good idea to pay attention to the sustainability of art as a system. For the past few decades, an ever-increasing number of people who strive to earn their living as artists while the economy of the arts has not expanded at the same rate. Also, digitalization has further accentuated the winner-takes-all-logic that has always been part of the economy of the arts.” 

On the other hand, art critically observes society. Creativity is strongly connected to thinking and observation. As Paavo Halonen4 mentions, “ecological crisis demands re-thinking and re-forming in all levels. Critique is built into the art discourse. Art offers ways to critically observe society. The critical observations need to happen also on a personal level. This is a major shift in the culture. We need to change what we are expecting from the world. Ways we “use” art differs from the ways we use mass-produced items. This is a way of thinking we should use in all the levels of life”. 

Join Marisun Gajitos, Lecturer at the Centre for Languages and Business Communication at Hanken with Outi Turpeinen, Art Coordinator at Aalto University, Veli-Markus Tapio, Senior Advisor in Finnish Cultural Foundation, and Paavo Halonen Finnish contemporary artist and designer located in Helsinki, to find out how art and sustainability are intertwined and what can be done for a more sustainable lifestyle.  


  1. Sidford & Frasz (authors) 2016: Beyong Green: The Art as a Catalyst for Sustainability. Salzburg Global Seminar. Session Report 561. Available:  
  2. Outi Turpeinen in “Should the art(s) be considered in the discourse on sustainability?” Sustainability Unwrapped episode 22. 
  3. Veli-Markus Tapio in “Should the art(s) be considered in the discourse on sustainability?” Sustainability Unwrapped episode 22. 
  4. Paavo Halonen in “Should the art(s) be considered in the discourse on sustainability?” Sustainability Unwrapped episode 22. 

Articles to read in English: 

Halonen Paavo, 2018. I don’t want to produce unnecessary objects into the world. Article in Artek website in English:  

Mäkelä, Maarit. ”Traces from the Anthropocene. Working with Soil.”  

Nordic Culture Point.”Culture and sustainability”.

Toivola, Tiina 2020. ”We know too much and too little”. Aalto University news:  

Turpeinen, Outi 2019. “How can a business school benefit from art?” published in Unfolded 2019 magazine pages 36-37:  

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