Art Gene is a unique, independent, international research facility founded and led by artists Stuart Bastik and Maddi Nicholson, and based in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Following the establishment of their studios in the then derelict former School for the Advancement of Science, Arts and Technology in 1998, Maddi and Stuart (alongside  Julie Hammerton, Co-Founder Director ) began working with Cumbria County Council to repurpose the building for arts use. This process led to the building’s rescue and refurbishment and the formation of Art Gene in 2002.

Art Gene quickly established an international programme of residencies and exhibitions, adapting to and learning from collaborative working with a number of highly skilled associates including artists and, more recently, architects and other specialists from all over the world. These associates contribute to our research through studio-based residencies, fellowships, charrettes, seminars and exhibitions in the Art Gene Gallery, and partner with us to develop and realise a wide portfolio of projects.

Art Gene places a strong emphasis on research, undertaking a range of pure research activities which inform and are applied to the development and realisation of projects. We work with the local community, alongside multidisciplinary teams of architects, artists and other specialists to realise our aim of Re-Visioning the regeneration of the social, natural and built environment.

We are currently engaged in the development and delivery of many projects with integrated educational initiatives delivered locally, regionally and internationally.



Our approach begins with in-depth consultation and educational activities within communities, local authorities and regeneration agencies to create environmentally aware, future-focused, design-led projects that are appropriate, high-value, affordable and sustainable: we seed engagement and learn from those who will ultimately care for and ‘live’ places beyond our involvement.

We pride ourselves on creating links between these stakeholders, contextualising local cultures on the world stage and bringing high-quality contemporary art, design, architecture and thought to revitalizing and Re-Visioning the regeneration of the social, natural and built environment.

“We want to shift to a perspective that makes transformation possible”

Alison Hand, former member of the Art Gene Board of Trustees

We engage artists, architects and others in programmes of work which identify and enhance the particularities of place, and consider the social, natural and built environment as a whole, suffusing it with an artistic sensibility (rather than placing isolated, commissioned artworks and buildings within it).

We deliver projects that are appropriate, high value, affordable, effective and sustainable, and which work with the complexities and apparent contradictions of a site. Our deep knowledge of our own town and surrounds feeds our understanding that the interactions between communities, industrial activity and the natural environment can be symbiotic – and in many cases act as a trigger for rich and very particular landscapes, cultures, fauna and flora.

About Barrow-in-Furness

Situated at the end of what has been deemed ‘the longest cul-de-sac in England, Barrow-in-Furness is an exciting location for artistic engagement, where new ideas can be tested against new audiences in a challenging yet dynamic social, political and cultural context. Despite its geographical isolation, Barrow has a long tradition of links with people from all over the world – and this tradition of internationalism and the tenacious pursuit of excellence makes it a perfect fit for the aspirations of Art Gene.

Further Reading

In Thoughts I’ve been Having with Myself,  Stuart Bastik, Co-Founder Director presents his unusual methodology, drawing conclusions from years of research with Art Gene, in a visual and entertaining way.

Download the free PDF:

Thoughts I’ve Been Having with Myself

Additional research papers include Re-Visioning Utopia, and Re-Visioning Utopia II from Yokohama with Love, both written by Stuart Bastik as part of the Re-Visioning Utopia Charrette. This event brought national and international Artists, Architects and Academics together in small multi-disciplinary teams that were fuelled both by an intensive series of research field-trips exploring the diversity of Barrow and its islands, and chaired debates on both achievable and imaginable objectives (for both Barrow and beyond).

Download the free PDFs:

For further information about our methodology, please see our Mission Statement (link below).

Additionally, you can read client testimonials and a list of all our partner and customer organisations (link below).

For more information about current Art Gene projects, click the current projects link here.



“Barrow is so fortunate to have Art Gene stardust sprinkled over/under /in it”.

Walter Menzies, Re-visioning Utopia Charette Participant, 2009.

The Art Gene website has been made possible, with the kind support of Arts Council England and Cumbria Business Growth Hub.

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