What we now know about the impact of human beings on the planet has led to the need to rethink the concepts of nature and ecology, and excatly how we as humans are connected to the world.
Everything we do has consequences, even when hidden from view.
Art center is situated in the middle of beautiful natural surroundings. We are commited to support, promote and implement sustainable development in its area of impact: ecological farming and food sovereignty, ecological building and renewable energies, efficient waste & sewage water treatment, protection of natural environment (bio-diversity, wildlife) and rural cultural and social development.
Sustainability means taking responsibility. It gives us the opportunity to change how we think, what we make, and what we buy—and confirms that our actions matter.
We are studying and experimenting with new models of living and working in our daily lives and as a form of creative/artistic practice. Do it yourself & Do it with others is how we do it and want to do it, applying principles of sustainability to everything we do – Art center is a living laboratory.
Ecological Gardens & Food Sovereignty
Art center’s ecological gardens are a privilege and a necessity – we are reclaiming our food (and our surrounding environment) as it embodies a web of complex relationships. We appreciate, respect and honour the life that goes into our food.
Our kitchen is focused on vegetarian and vegan meals – fresh & seasonal, a mix of traditional and contemporary recipes (while experimenting a lot). We grow, cook and preserve what we can produce (abundance; juices, jams, sauces & more + fermentation), buy local and organic. But we’re not purists.
We are also picking and drying herbs & spices from our natural surrounding and gardens, making our own macerates, tinctures and more.
Learning how to preserve our own seeds and seed exchange is an ongoing practice at the center.
Feeling the power of nature and being aware of your body and mind while at work is our way. Gardening is teaching us about life, death, decay and regeneration. Nature and gardening are master teachers of change.
Our gardens are a funky mix of permaculture and art, lasagna gardening and raised garden beds with a pinch of biodynamic principles and high tech – low tech blend.
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Art center has it’s garden since 2003. We were trying for years to develop efficient approaches and gardening techniques, starting from scratch. As we want to improve every gardening season (and we only have one try each year), our learning-by-doing is a continuous process.
Our gardens are biologically managed and focused on building healthy soil as the basis for growing healthy crops – an ecosystem that helps exclude pests, weed and disease cycles.
Soil fertility and organic matter is maintained and increased through compost, worm castings, animal manure and organic mulches (leaves, grass clippings, straw and cover crops). Crop rotations, companion planting and use of basic biodynamic principles (herbal preparations, planting calendar) help create abundant crops.
Rainwater is collected and used for watering of all garden areas.
Raised garden beds were the way to go on our clay ground base – our gardens are located on soil that has been dug out during the building of the Art center complex and a lot of time, energy and labour has been invested in the nourishment of the soil structure and it’s life.
In 2010-2012 we were applying lasagna gardening technique.
Next to vegetables and herbs we also have currant, aronia and blackberry plants. During our years here we planted a fruit tree garden (around 40 trees – apples, peach, walnut, chestnut and fig).
In 2011 we built a net to protect our garden produce from hail. In 2012 we expanded the existing growing area with a herb spiral, straw garden bed for potatoes and 5 new raised garden beds – starting the second garden.
In 2015 we have expanded the gardens further with raised garden beds for vegetables and herbs and two smaller greenhouse garden beds.
2016 was the year to improve the existing greenhouse raised garden beds with a simple automated rainwater irrigation system and two more raised garden beds with wattle fence. During the year we have been collecting different organic materials and preparing new ground for the third garden area.
Off to the future
Next to ongoing work, our dream is to have a greenhouse, which will enable us to extend the growing season and feed us during colder months too.
The plans for the future greenhouse will include a hybrid type of construction: geodesic dome combined with pit greenhouse, straw bale insulation, thermal mass heating (water tanks, rocks) and – eventually – an additional rocket mass heater.
We are also looking more into rainwater collecting systems, biodynamic water flow and built-in irrigation system for the greenhouse. And testing plant growth stimulation with music.
If you’re interested in learning about or developing these project ideas together with us, you are most kindly invited to contact us.
Ecological building with local natural materials and the use of eco friendly building techniques is our future.
A bit of history
The project of Art center started in 1999 when Association ONEJ gained financial support of EU Programme Phare-CREDO for cross-border co-operation.
ONEJ – Association of Prekmurje Initiative conceived the project, gained financial support of European Comission and executed building of the Art center: renovation and transformation of ex-Yugoslavian border guardhouse into first slovenian residential artistic center.
Through the years the members of Association ONEJ built, equipped and developed Art center with countless hours of voluntary work without payment, invested their personal money and gained financing from open project calls.
Association ONEJ and the team of Art center decided that the time to rethink our dependencies has come and to find alternatives for future development of the institution, one of those being to fully self-build.
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The residential building was built till the third construction phase with the voluntary work of a german craftstmen guild Axt und Kelle in 2005.
In 2012 Art center organised a series of ecological building workshops, led by slovenian expert for natural builds Stojan Habjanič. Together with more than 30 participants of the workshops, we insulated the residential building with clay, straw, reed plates and partly finished northern part of the building with wooden boards, as the architect of the complex Ira Zorko planned.
In 2013 we continued with ecological building workshops which included insulation of the residential building floors/ceilings with straw bales and building a wooden construction for firewood storage.
The residential part of the Art center complex will be built based on ecological principles (ecological materials – wood, straw, clay; composting toilets, water filtration, etc.) and heated with geothermal energy, if all goes according to our plans.
And the work continues.
We are commited to protecting our water source & environment – Art center has it’s own well and we have been working on a reed-bed waste water management system for the breakdown of the organic matter in our wastewater.
Reed-bed waste water management system at the Art center
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A reed-bed waste water management system is an engineered structure that harnesses natural ecological processes for the breakdown of the organic matter in wastewater.
They contain gravels and sands which are planted with the common river reed. Sewage is applied either at one end or generally over the whole surface and collected from the other end or by a series of drainage pipes at the bottom.
As the waste water passes through the gravels and sands, it comes into contact with the bacteria, fungi and algae that grow around the root systems of the reeds, where the oxygen rich atmosphere they produce, assists the break-down process.
Together with the septic tank, this system of waste water treatment is highly efficient and easy (and low-cost) to maintain.
When finished, the project will treat the Art center’s sewage by the end of 2016 and serve as a pilot project to promote ecological sewage treatment system in the local environment.
Our water source
Art center inherited a well from the army and we are very proud of that fact. The well is situated in the village of Središče/Szerdahely and the water is pumped to a water tank in the main building cellar.
We pay attention to the amounts of water we use and try to save up – our gardens are watered with collected rainwater as well.
While talking about sustainability and environment, energy use reduction and cost savings are also very important.
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The wood we use comes from the local forests, which we clean or maintain in agreement with the owners and forestry service. Volunteers and guests usually join our work actions in the forests.
Presently our heating is provided by a smart wood owen that is connected with the heating system of the main building (radiators).
Our energy saving efforts include electric lighting upgrades and highly efficient appliances & tools, and we are always on the look-out for new improvements.
And our future?
We would like to upgrade our heating from smart wood owen to rocket water heater. As we are learning about it’s properties, it seems one of best long-term solutions for reducing our carbon foot-print.
We are also developing the project of self sufficiency in electricity through photovoltaic panels. If stars (and slovene cultural policy) align in our favour, we intend to be energetically self sufficient by 2020.
Other green practices
Eventhough ecological sewage water treatment are highly efficient, we are committed to using ecological cleaners and personal hygiene products, and encourage our guests to do the same. Some of the cleaners we make ourselves, such as dishwasher detergent and washing powder, using natural ingredients that are toxic free.
Other operational practices include paper use reduction, recycling, upcycling and reuse. Special attention is given to toxic materials (use in the arts or general mainatinance).
Car at the disposal at the Art center is run also on gas and car-sharing is the way to go.