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A Model & Collaborator

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April 5, 2019 protest by Decolonize This Place at the Whitney Museum, New York NY, over board vice chair

Warren Kanders' ownership of Safariland, a manufacturer of tear gas and other weapons.

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The following essay is a review of the Center for Art Education and Sustainability (CAES), also known as the Sustainable Art School ( First, I will profile Ivan Asin, the founder of CAES. Then I will highlight the intention and ambition of CAES and provide a brief survey of the programming and resources that CAES offers artists, educators, and communities interested in sustainable approaches in Art Education. Throughout I will make note of a few projects CAES has implemented or been involved with. Tagged on to the end of the paper is a story Ivan told me that demonstrates the, at times, unpredictable nature of working in collaboration with the land and communities.


Ivan Asin, founder


Ivan Asin founded CAES and is the leading art educator behind the organization, teaching in public and private schools, leading workshops internationally, and facilitating professional development sessions for art educators. He has a background in visual arts, marketing, and sustainable development education, all of which aided him in the foundation and facilitation of CAES. 

Ivan is NYC based and has taught visual arts in the New York City public school system since 2010. He studied Visual Arts and Marketing at Montclair State University and earned a Masters Degree in Art & Design Education from Pratt Institute. He was awarded the title of “Master Environmental Educator” by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education in 2017 and is currently part of the Fulbright Specialist roster. Currently, Ivan is a Doctoral Candidate in the Art Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research informs the work of CAES and vice-versa, like a feedback loop. 




CAES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in New York, United States. “CAES' work focuses on the research, education and promotion of sustainable practices in art and art education and with aligning artistic lifestyle practices with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” (


CAES provides curriculum and workshopping for artists, educators, communities, and organizations regionally (New York) and internationally. The work of CAES helps cultivate knowledge, creativity, and lifestyle habits through ecologically centered art and craft education. Currently there are 5 people on the team, 14 partners, and 50+ affiliates in their network. Ivan has developed most of the curriculum and facilitated most of the featured projects on their website.


CAES Programming


So, more specifically, what kind of programming does CAES offer and in what contexts do they work? Below I will survey the international workshops, professional development, and community-based art programming that CAES offers.

  • International short-term workshops “arranged, planned and carried out in collaboration with local - and likeminded - hosting institutions” with the goal of developing place-specific sustainable art studio practices that their “participants can later further develop in autonomy and that can help them achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs).” 

Caes partners with a “hosting institution” (an entity or individual; i.e. art residencies, schools, communities, etc) to coordinate logistics and discern “artistic/educational details in relation to work conditions and the space in which [the] program will be carried out.” A contact person representing the hosting institution is “responsible for the recruitment of participants, scheduling workshop sessions, securing a suitable workspace and keeping a reliable channel of communication with CAES prior to arrival and during [their] stay.”

Examples of where this programming has been implemented: 

While Ivan has done programming internationally, I learned when I spoke with him recently that he is shifting his attention toward sustainable arts programming in the United States because the impact of our unsustainable practices is far greater than, for example, a remote community in Lima, Peru. 


  • Professional development for educators at three levels:

    • Individual Artists & Educators - “Workshop and courses designed to provide artists and educators with the basic concepts of art and sustainability.”

    • School Professional Development Sessions - workshop sessions for teachers and staff. 

    • School Long-Term Partnerships - multi-year, ongoing support to help establish a school's sustainability plan. 

Examples of where this programming has been implemented: 

  • HOLLINGWORTH PRE-SCHOOL. Teachers College, Columbia University. New York, NY



  • ART & DESIGN EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY


Examples of where this programming has been implemented: 

  • MURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM, New York, New Delhi and Lima, November 2015 - January 2016

  • PAINTING PROCESSES, Jackson Heights Community, New York, Ongoing

All of these projects are presented on the CAES website with photographs that demonstrate the participants, materials, processes, and outcomes. In addition to these projects profiles and course offerings, CAES has a section on their website archiving pictures and edited videos of the processes CAES teaches. For example: papermaking, natural inks and paint, charcoal sticks, and ceramics.


Related Pedagogies


The work of CAES correlates with holistic and transformative approaches to education and contextually situated, place-based pedagogies aspiring to raise bioregional awareness and promote sustainable lifestyle habits in and outside the classroom. The work of CAES also falls under the umbrella of self-determined sociality by cutting out the “middle man” of art supply companies. 


I am reminded of Edmund O'Sullivan's notion of “Transformative criticism”- A form of criticism that calls into question the fundamental mythos of the dominant cultural form and indicates that the culture can no longer viably maintain its continuity and vision”...maintaining that “the dominant culture is no longer “formatively appropriate” (O’Sullivan, Integral Transformative Education).


Ivan is keen on addressing the global through the local in his approach. In our discussion he said “We have a global issue but we also have a local issue. And it’s the local one that you can do something about. And that might create a model for understanding global issues. But normally sustainability is local and its directly related to materials. Any conversation about sustainability will always lead you to those two things: the Local; and material.”


Ivan has invited me to channel my thesis work through CAES. Here are some ideas we collaboratively developed for my involvement: 

  1. Curate a featured artist page - an archive of profiles/interviews of artists/educators/artivists in the field for the CAES website that would inform my own work and help build a network through CAES. 

  2. Organize and facilitate round table discussions - -Realize, organize, facilitate discussion/s that bring Art Education/Sustainability practitioners together around a particular theme/is


Whether it is through CAES or not, I am interested in realizing and developing a land-based Art Education curriculum (that may or may not be curated in collaboration with the CAES network as well as other practitioners in the field) that I could deliver to individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions who could draw upon this curriculum to guide facilitation of sustainable art practices in their own sphere. 

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