Arts and Ecology

MFA, MA, PGDip, PGCert
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Arts and Ecology*

MFA, MA, PGDip, PGCert
Full time and part time

“Any artist who is attentive…in engaging with place will not only research and reveal environmental crisis but will also do so in a complex, integrated and subtle fashion; the resultant work will avoid stridency and dogma, but will nevertheless inform, challenge, inspire and disturb in ways that perhaps only the arts can.” Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections

This course is a metadisciplinary, practice-led, taught Master’s programme designed for artists with an established practice, to help them foster a creative practice fit for the climate crisis, and the ecological, social, and ethical challenges we all face. Throughout the unique modules you will develop your work in the context of the inevitable paradigm shift required in our societies, economies and cultures, due to the climate emergency.

Without attempting to create definitions in this highly contested field, the programme nevertheless encourages examination of Arts and Ecology as an academic field of practice. As well as this more theoretical, academic work, we will also provide an opportunity for arts practitioners to revisit and reshape their work through an ecological lens, supporting a broad range of creative forms and outputs. Crucially, there is no distinction here between fine art practice, performing arts, applied arts, design, writing, or any other arts practice.  

*Please note this course is currently going through Approval with our Accrediting Body The University of Plymouth. You can register your interest to start in September 2021 below.

Photo credit: Kate Mount, of David Nash’s Black Sphere in the Dartington gardens, summer 2011. Brought to Dartington through a collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World.

Key Info

  • Practice-led teaching of arts in the context of the climate crisis.

A full-time (1 year) or part-time programme (2 years) with 4 x 30 credit modules and 1 x 60 credit dissertation or major project module. The taught (30 credit) modules are six weeks’ long. Teaching at Dartington is concentrated into two-week periods for each of the first four modules, with supported e-learning and independent learning inbetween.

The course content is suitable for practitioners from any artform or creative discipline, including dancers/choreographers, musicians, story tellers, fine artists, installation artists, sound artists, architects and land artists, and those who see living and being as an art practice.

The MFA option involves a further 60 credits of study resulting in a significant, self initiated public outcome, performance, exhibition or publication. Participants will be drawn from our own MA programmes as well as those from other institutions.

Programme information 

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how to apply

This course is going through the approval process and is not currently open for applications. Please register your interest below to be informed of all developments. 

TERM DATES AND teaching dates

Dates TBC. Planned start is September 2021.

programme structure and modules

Modules 1 and 2, and 3, run sequentially during term 1 and 2 with module 4 running concurrently but assessed at the end of term 2 this allows the modules to reflect and respond to each other. Module 5 runs for the whole of term 3 and is the final project for students exiting with an MA. For those wishing to undertake an MFA they will attend for a further 2 terms full time or 1 year part time. Below are draft modules, which are indicative only at this stage, though we hope to confirm more details soon.

 Habitation (30 credits)

The module explores practical and theoretical issues surrounding notions of home, habitation, place and environment.  Students are introduced to key concepts within the field of arts and ecology; understanding place – making and senses of place; site-specific and land art; working with land and community, relational working, mapping, territory and psychogeography; writing the land; ecological and field-based research methods and practice.

Consciousness (30 credits)

This module introduces students to mind and consciousness informed by a range of philosophical approaches and to notions of spirituality and the extended self; phenomenology; body/mind discourse; and exploratory theories such as neuro aesthetics, automatic writing. Other explorations include uncertainty, non-human consciousness, and theoretical views of the world such as quantum mechanics and the multiverse.

World (30 credits)

Introductions to relationships with the world, identity, rootedness, metaphysics; alternative reading of landscape, and how artists build relationships to and with the world, with further explorations of ecological theory and complexity. Explores how can artists look outward and remain centred in an ecological and holistic approach to practice.

Responsive Practice (30 credits)

Running alongside other core modules in terms 1 and 2, this module provides support for the student’s ongoing creative and written work in response to ecological concerns.  The module also supports students in the creation of a Personal Development Plan, setting goals and outputs for the substantial 60 credit Major Project. This module is primarily supported through group and individual tutorials.

 MA Dissertation/Final Project (60 credits)

This module supports the student’s creative, theoretical and reflective work.  The module also supports students in the realisation of their Personal Learning Plan developed during SCH5435. The module culminates in a public showing of work and the submission of a formal piece of writing. Outputs from the module evidence the depth of development and synthesis of knowledge from the programme.

 MFA Professional Project (90 credits)

This module is self-initiated from the outset and prioritises individual research, conducted under supervision with identified tutors and other mentors and external advisors considered essential to the study. MFA students learn from and contribute to the delivery of the module through their interaction with peers, tutors and the wider art community. Emphasis is placed upon independence, originality, initiative and enterprise. Teaching and learning will be complimented by the wide range of visiting lecturers (e.g. artists, ecologists, critics, curators), providing the opportunity to discuss work with renowned experts. Students will develop individual opportunities with national and/or international agencies, etc., which may also result in working independently or at distance. Culmination of the module is the production of a substantial and resolved creative outcome that will be exhibited/performed/published and assessed in an appropriate public arena.


Alan Boldon, Managing Director, Dartington Trust

Alan Boldon is a practising artist and Managing Director of Dartington Trust. His paintings have been exhibited throughout Europe (Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway), Asia (Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar), US and Canada.

He has taught widely in higher education and was formerly Head of the School of Art, Design and Media at the University of Brighton. Previous roles include: Associate Curator and the Head of Research at Arnolfini; Head of Arts and Ecology at Dartington College of Arts; Director of an International Arts Summer School in Luxembourg; Lecturer in Fine Art in Context at the University of the West of England. He was made an Honorary Fellow at Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton) for his contribution to the field of contemporary arts and was Visiting Artist Fellow in the School of Civil Engineering at Bristol University.

Alan has taught at and advised higher education institutions throughout the world including work at Trondheim School of Arts, University of New Mexico, Banff Centre for the Arts, LaSalle College of Art and Design, NTU Singapore, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Taylor’s University Malaysia, San Francisco College of Art and Design, University of The Fjords, Icelandic Academy of the Arts.

He is chair of the Dartington LASER Talks and is on the board of MIT Press Leonardo Journal. He has worked with many Arts and Design organisations on strategy including the RSA, TATE, and the Tobacco Factory.

Dr Tracey Warr, Head of Research, Dartington Trust

Tracey Warr is a fiction and non-fiction writer. Her most recent books on contemporary art are The Midden (Garret, 2018) and Remote Performances in Nature and Architecture (Routledge, 2015) and her recent fiction includes the future fiction, The Water Age (Meanda Books, 2018) and historical fiction, The Drowned Court (Impress, 2017). She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for Fiction and is currently working on a biography of three medieval sisters, entitled Three Female Lords, which received an Authors Foundation grant. She was awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary and a Santander Research Award. She is currently Head of Research at Dartington and has previously held academic posts at Dartington College of Arts; Oxford Brookes University; Glasgow School of Art; Bauhaus University, Weimar; Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Surrey Institute of Art and Design. 

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