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

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

Image showing Art Gene logo (black lettering on white with orange surround) against a blue background with words underneath: "Our whole environment can be a work of art..."

Art Gene established an international programme of residencies and exhibitions, adapting to and learning from collaborative working with a number of highly skilled associates including artists, architects and other specialists from around the world. These associates contribute to Art Gene’s work through studio-based residencies, fellowships, charrettes, seminars and exhibitions in the Art Gene gallery, and partner with us to develop and realise a portfolio of projects.

Art Gene places a strong emphasis on research, undertaking a range of investigative activities which inform and are applied to the development and realisation of projects. We work with local communities alongside multidisciplinary teams of specialists to realise our aim of re-visioning the regeneration of the social, natural and built environment.

Maddi and Stuart are currently involved in development and delivery of projects with integrated education elements, working in Cumbria, the North West, Milton Keynes, London and online.

Large green chalk board featuring dart board and Stuart's handwriting in white chalk summarising ways to experience Walney Island.


Art Gene’s 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 high-value and affordable: 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 the revitalising and re-visioning of place.

“We want to shift to a perspective that makes transformation possible.” Alison Hand, former Art Gene Trustee

We engage people 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, 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 creates 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 with new audiences in a challenging yet dynamic social, political and cultural context. Despite its (to some) geographical isolation, Barrow has a long tradition of forging global links and of engineering prowess – this internationalism, together with 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 (2018), Stuart Bastik, Co-founder Director presents his unusual methodology, drawing conclusions from years of research with Art Gene. Download PDF

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 CharretteThis event brought national and international artists, architects and academics together in small multi-disciplinary teams that were fuelled by an intensive series of research field-trips exploring the diversity of Barrow and its islands and chaired debates on achievable and imaginable objectives – for Barrow and beyond.


“Barrow is so fortunate to have Art Gene stardust sprinkled over/under/in it. Walter Menzies, Re-visioning Utopia charette participant.


Art Gene Mission Statement

Stuart Bastik

Maddi Nicholson

© Art Gene
Tel: +44 (0)1229 825085

Art Gene

Bath Street,


Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK

Donate here

Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

Registered Charity: 1135536

Registered in England: 4359454

All images, artwork and text on this website are protected by copyright and may not be downloaded or otherwise reproduced or distributed without the permission of Art Gene. © Art Gene associates, artists and partners, 2022.