SCAN director Clare Harris reflects on our summer of Art in Action activity, and a successful Parliamentary Reception

SCAN 61
Clare at the Art in Action Parliamentary Reception

 

Over the past five months it has been amazing to see how the Art in Action campaign has been picked up by our members, who have invited MSPs to come and see what they do. Twenty MSPs, from all political parties have made time in their schedules to head out and meet our members, artists and art organisations – sometimes more than once. We’ve witnessed some really rich conversations; there have been new links, new ideas and eyes opened.

Where did Art in Action come from?

Back in 2017, SCAN worked with our members, the Scottish Artists Union and Engage Scotland to draw up a Manifesto for the Visual Arts. In it, we made the following statements –

  • We believe that art is vital for the health and wellbeing of individuals and society
  • We recognise that artists inspire agency and change within their communities and that they play an essential role in public life

We also issued a call to policymakers to place culture at the heart of representative policy and decision making.

This Manifesto formed the foundation of the Art in Action campaign, celebrating the real impact contemporary art has across policy areas.

What was it all for?

This autumn we anticipate the announcement of a new Culture Strategy for Scotland, as well as the findings of the Culture Committee’s inquiry into arts funding. The inquiry continues to hear evidence – the most recent session, which took place on 19 September, heard views from Culture Counts, Festivals Edinburgh and Culture Aberdeen on issues such as peer review, percent for art schemes and more.  When SCAN made its submission to this inquiry, we talked of the sense of precarity our members feel, and the need for sustained, far-sighted investment in the contemporary art infrastructure to allow it to flourish.

At our SCAN Summit, held at Glasgow Womens Library in March, our members told us what was amazing about what they did – and what would hole would be left in their communities if they weren’t there.

We talked about the stubborn myths about contemporary art that still need to be busted – and that’s part of the continuing job of Art in Action, to reach MSPs and decision-makers who hold outdated views on what art is. We know that art is not a rarefied pursuit. We know that galleries provide free access to inspiring, mind-opening shows that carry Scotland’s name worldwide. And we know that artists are agents of change. We need more people to know this, too.

EFzFUIEUUAAxdzK.jpeg
Myriam Mouflih, Clare and Helen Moore of the SCAN team at the Travelling Gallery, which brought contemporary art to the steps of Parliament on the day of our reception.

And what now?

Our summer of visits is over, but that’s not the end of the hard work. One of our members, Robyn Woolston, rightly commented that it’s really just the start.  The forthcoming Culture Strategy for Scotland is one plank of the wellbeing-led National Performance Framework (and we’ll be calling on members to help us scrutinise it when it is published). Holyrood’s recent Programme for Government stated that “culture is central to our wellbeing and our social, economic and environmental prosperity”. A recent report by Arts Council England showed that arts and culture contributes £8.5bn to the UK economy, and that culture pays £2.6bn in taxes, £5 for every £1 of public funding.

Warm words and impressive figures – but the portion of the Scottish Government budget that goes to arms-length funding body Creative Scotland is just 0.2 per cent. And as many SCAN members well know, pressure on budgets comes from a local level as well as a national level.

There has been much discussion about how cultural impact is best measured; the recent Culture Committee session mentioned above is just one glimpse of it. We hope our case studies, published throughout the Art in Action campaign, give an insight into how high quality contemporary visual art can have a transformative impact. As Jacqueline Donachie put it at our recent reception, art isn’t there to ‘fix things’, but to provide ‘an open door to walk through’.

Artists think differently. We want policymakers to think differently, too. That’s why, after a summer of Art in Action, we will continue to challenge them to place art at the heart of decision-making, and to invest in the contemporary art community to build that innovative, tolerant and vibrant nation we all aspire to.

SCAN 95-min.jpg
Dr Claire Baker MSP with her print by artist Ruth Ewan bearing the words of poet, activist and mill worker Mary Brooksbank

Patrick Harvie MSP (Glasgow) Joins Glasgow Sculpture Studios For His Second Art in Action Visit

IMG_3434

Summer may be over, but Art in Action campaign visits are not and on Friday 27th September, we joined Patrick Harvie MSP for Glasgow region and Co-Convenor for Scottish Greens for his second Art in Action visit. This time he and Councillor Jon Molyneux met with SCAN Members Glasgow Sculpture Studios (GSS), based in the Whisky Bond, in the north west of the city.

Mhairi Sawyer, Director of GSS was keen to give Patrick a tour of the largest art production facility in Scotland and introduce him to artists based there who work in contemporary sculptural practice.

GSS is an important organisation in the visual arts economy in Scotland. Alongside providing production space for artists and makers, the workshops are also used by arts workers and technicians that are, in turn, employed by artists and institutions to fabricate pieces of sculpture which are enjoyed in public spaces across the world. Patrick and Jon spoke to Production Facilities Manager David McAllister (above) about how the organisation works on innovative commercial projects in order to support the artistic practice at its core.

The strength of the community of artists based there helps the organisation to provide a space where skills are shared and passed on and experiments happen, via teaching and creative collaboration.

Patrick also learned more about Glasgow Sculpture Studios learning and engagement programme, which plays a really important part in making sure the organisation can build and strengthen relationships between artists, local communities, and the local environment through creative workshops and projects.

One such project is Channels, a dedicated personal development programme for young people aged 16 – 25. To deliver this project, GSS work with a variety of partners such as The Prince’s Trust, Widening Participation at Glasgow School of Art, and The Red Cross’s Chrysalis Group. Here, they can develop creative workshops that build on young people’s talents, skills, and confidence – supporting them to try new things and new experiences.

The organisation have also ensured that they have strong roots within the community in which they are based. Mhairi chatted to Patrick about how keen they have been to play a part in the regeneration of north Glasgow’s canalside. They are members of the Canal Cooperative, a network of local organisations that work collectively to unlock the potential of this area, to ensure it is a vibrant and safe place for people to live, work and visit.

IMG_3442

During the tour of the sculpture workshops, Mhairi introduced Patrick to GSS studio-holders James Rigler and Kate V Robertson. James, whose ceramic work is held in collections such as the V&A and Chatsworth House, told Patrick about the sense of collaboration and mutual support at GSS which attracts artists at all levels. Kate spoke about the role GSS played in her own practice, opening up new ways of working that she would never have had access to without it. Kate is also one of the founding directors of Sculpture Placement Group (SPG). They run a Sculpture Adoption Scheme which enables artworks to be ‘adopted’ or borrowed by companies, community groups and public organisations. This means that these artworks can be enjoyed by the public instead of being placed in storage at the artists expense. In fact, over Glasgow Doors Open Days this month, the SPG placed a number of sculptures throughout the venues, introducing them to large new audiences.

Patrick was delighted to learn more about Glasgow Sculpture Studios and the diverse work that they do, from creating a safe space for all kinds of people to explore new ideas and ways of communicating to embedding themselves in local regeneration initiatives and playing a part in the visual arts fabrication economy.

IMG_3445

James Rigler is represented by Marsden Woo Gallery, and Kate V Robertson by Patricia Fleming Projects.

 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP visits Studio Pavilion at House for an Art Lover

ArtActionSturgeon3
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP at Studio Pavilion with Board Member Alison Harley, Studio Pavilion Team, SCAN team and artist Tessa Lynch.

As our summer of Art in Action comes to a close, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside, visited SCAN member Studio Pavilion at House for an Art Lover.

On Friday she met with the venue’s Arts and Heritage Officer Louise Briggs who introduced her to resident artists based in the on-site studio spaces, members of the Studio Pavilion staff team and participants in a ceramic taster workshop that was taking place in the learning and teaching space.

ArtActionSturgeon7
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon models some clay with ceramics artist Kevin Andrew Morris.

The Studio Pavilion exists on a unique site that includes not only the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed House for an Art Lover but also a Heritage Centre showcasing the rich history of Bellahouston and the surrounding area of Govan; the Grounds for Play children’s park with outdoor sculptural work and shed studio spaces.

Studio Pavilion offers free contemporary art in Bellahouston Park, presenting an ambitious, pioneering and challenging programme of events, exhibitions, residencies and workshops that is visible and relevant locally, while being nationally and internationally aware.

Artist and constituent Tessa Lynch met the First Minister. Her joint exhibition with Rachel Adams, Stoop Stoop Stooping is Stoopid, closed at the weekend. Tessa, who is represented by Patricia Fleming Projects, chatted to the First Minister about the research behind the artwork – which explored Frances Gabe’s invention, the self-cleaning house, as a framework by which to look at laborious making techniques and connotations of domestic mess.

Rachel and Tessa have been working as artists in residence in Studio Pavilion over the last couple of months, collaborating together for the first time. Both artists share an interest in elevating craft and household activity, often associated with women’s work, into the realm of art. These themes are in stark contrast to the staged space of House for an Art Lover where no domestic chaos or mess is allowed.

Louise was keen to share the with the First Minister that one of the key aims of the Studio Pavilion is to support the public in their understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts. Their initiatives include an annual art class programme, a schools programme; a talks programme and gallery tours. They work with local projects including Govan Men’s Shed, Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice and the GalGael Trust.

ArtActionSturgeon14
Nicola Sturgeon with artist Tessa Lynch and Arts and Heritage Officer Louise Briggs.

 

Placemaking and Programming: John Mason MSP visits Many Studios, Glasgow

 

IMG_20190909_160451_952

John Mason MSP (Glasgow Shettleston) joined us to meet with Director and Creative Producer Natalia Palombo at Many Studios on Monday 9th September.

Many Studios is a creative organisation committed to championing multidisciplinary practice through quality workspaces and diverse arts programming.  Natalia kindly gave us a tour of the studio spaces and gallery which are situated within the Glasgow Barras neighbourhood.

She explained to John that, as part of the legacy of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the wide ranging placemaking and programming skills of the organisation were employed to design, develop and operate a new creative hub in the East End of the city.

Since 2016, Many Studios have played a major part in the development of The Barras neighbourhood as a new cultural destination, through building a creative community alongside hosting public events, outdoor markets, unique partnerships and international collaborations.

Many provides managed workspaces, shop front creative units, contemporary art galleries, multifunctional meeting rooms and event spaces. All are designed not only to support creativity, innovation and business growth but also be flexible enough to meet the ever-changing needs of the creative industries.

The Gallow Gate is the front facing gallery space within Many Studios. It currently presents an interdisciplinary arts programme, responding to issues surrounding postcolonialism, migration and globalism. Natalia shared more information with John about key work she is doing to develop a toolkit around current visa regulations and the impact they currently have on freedom of movement within the cultural sector.

We also got the opportunity to view The Expulsion, a new and deeply personal film work from artist Larry Achiampong. Newly commissioned by The Gallow Gate, the short film highlights the rich interior world of an unnamed migrant with references to themes of race, class and gender.

 

Anas Sarwar MSP Meets senior curator Claire Jackson at Tramway, Glasgow

EDydbjrXoAEz_-S

We met with Claire Jackson, senior curator at Tramway Glasgow and Anas Sarwar MSP (Glasgow) on Friday 6th September 2019 for another great Art in Action visit.

Although Anas Sarwar is very aware of the venue and the work that they do to attract a large and diverse audience, it was great to invite him to Tramway to talk in more detail about the work that goes on behind the scenes and also everything that the team does to collaborate with international and local artists, whilst being a popular cultural space for the local community.

Claire gave Anas a tour of both exhibitions: Facecrime by Jonathan Baldock and Until by Nick Cave.

Facecrime is the first solo exhibition in Scotland by artist Jonathan Baldock (b. 1980) who works across multiple platforms including sculpture, installation and performance. Baldock has an ongoing interest in the contrast between the material qualities of ceramic and fabric, drawing them together in his theatrical installations and sculptural assemblages. Tramway worked in partnership with Camden Arts Centre in London, who commissioned the work to bring it to Glasgow.

Drawing from histories of labour, folklore and storytelling, Baldock experiments with glass, basketry and spinning to highlight the decline of traditional making and skills lost due to technology.

Until, organised by MASS MoCA, Massachusetts and co-produced with Carriageworks, Sydney and Crystal Bridges/The Momentary, Arkansas is artist Nick Cave’s largest and most ambitious project to date. Cave who lives and works in Chicago is renowned for his Soundsuits, compelling and ornate figurative sculptures that can be worn and performed. An artist whose work has been driven by the social and personal impact of racism for close to three decades, Cave created his first Soundsuit as a form of both camouflage and symbolic body armour, an insulating layer of accumulated materials and meanings.

In Tramway’s main gallery, Cave exhibits a massive immersive installation made up of thousands of found objects which make viewers feel as if they have entered a rich sensory tapestry, akin to stepping directly inside the belly of one of his iconic Soundsuits. The show references complex issues of gun violence, racial profiling and gender politics that currently divide the United States of America, and the extension of these matters in communities around the world.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to tell Anas that, over the last 3 weeks, there have been around 9,000 visits to Tramway to see these exhibitions alone, cementing Glasgow’s reputation as an important city for contemporary art. An exhibition on the scale of Until also provides employment opportunities for the large number of technicians and skilled people to help construct the work and make it come together.

Over the exhibition period, Anas learned that the space will also be used for a number of community events including Altered States and Human Threads, a project with Artlink, one of our campaign case studies.  These workshops will focus on how the shared experience of art can honour the human threads that connect people with profound learning disabilities to the wider world, and the wider world to them.

Creative Communities Lead the Way in Dumfries: Joan McAlpine MSP Visits The Stove Network

MSQ-Get-Together_1
L-R: Mike Staples (Dumfries and Galloway Small Communities Housing Trust), Matt Baker (The Stove Network), Scott Mackay (Chair Midsteeple Quarter), Joan McAlpine MSP

On her second Art in Action campaign visit, Joan McAlpine MSP (South Scotland) met with The Stove Network. Since 2011, the network has been comprised of a collective of local artists that have worked tirelessly to breathe new life into Dumfries High Street, whilst developing new opportunities.

The Stove Network have already worked with Dumfries and Galloway council to secure an Asset Transfer of the one publicly owned property in the block – 135-139 High Street, which is now known as the The Oven, currently hosting exhibitions and events, whilst the property awaits development.

Now recognised as the first artist led Community Development Trust in the UK, the Stove Network are now developing plans for Midsteeple Quarter, a building project which aims to bring affordable homes and enterprise space back into Dumfries town centre.

Joan met with The Stove Network founder Matt Baker, alongside Scott McKay, Chair of Midsteeple Quarter and Mike Staples, Director of Dumfries and Galloway Small Communities Housing Trust at the Stove’s fully accessible public art and meeting space at 100 High Street.

There, she found out more about the important role that local visual artists and members of the community have played in making Dumfries a more vibrant and creative place to be. They also discussed the importance of supporting a network that creates opportunities and connections for the creative community whilst engaging with local economies and wider society.

By working with creative people in the town, the Midsteeple Quarter project has provided a new artistic way to connect meaningfully with the community.

An artist led approach to redevelopment and regeneration brings with it playfulness, imagination, conversation and a willingness to take risks within the project.

Photo-Colin-Tennant-2

Jackie Baillie MSP visits Eleanor Carlingford’s Exhibition in Glasgow

EDc3k6ZXYAITMSM
Artist Eleanor Carlingford with Jackie Baillie MSP at the opening of Paladin on the Ramparts, Art Pistol Gallery, Glasgow

Jackie Baillie MSP visited Art Pistol gallery in Glasgow on Sat 31st August to see works by her Dumbarton constituent and SCAN member Eleanor Carlingford.

Eleanor lives and works in Argyll and Bute. Primarily an abstract painter, her works deal with ideas around identity. She has pursued a varied career from translating to journalism and broadcasting, relationship counselling and theatrical costume manufacture before turning, in her forties, to painting.  She decided then to pursue the honours degree course in fine art painting at The Glasgow School of Art and graduated in June 2005.

She was keen to see Jackie Baillie’s response to her paintings and talked to her about the importance of maintaining classes in the creative arts, drama and music, and the good impact they have on mental health which is a pet subject.

Eleanor said: “Jackie agreed wholeheartedly with this last issue, emphasising the case of The Vale Of Leven school in her constituency where participation in creative activities has been not only maintained but developed despite austerity.”

Paladin on the Ramparts by Eleanor Carlingford continues at Art Pistol Gallery throughout September.

Pete Wishart MP visits Threshold Artspace at Horsecross Perth

EC-8w6eX4Akjvj0
Pete Wishart MP with Artist Katherine Radeva and Curator of Threshold Artspace Iliyana Nedkova

Established in September 2005 and pioneered by independent cultural charity Horsecross Arts, Threshold artspace is about positioning Perth and Scotland within the contemporary art world through curating, commissioning, producing, exhibiting, publishing, interpreting and collecting.

Curator and SCAN member Iliyana Nedkova invited Pete Wishart MP to the space to meet artist Katherina Radeva and see a sneak preview of her first major solo exhibition Transient Spaces.  They discussed the importance of curating and sustaining through continued public funding a dedicated contemporary art space situated within the two iconic venues for performing arts in the city – Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall.

Iliyana, who curated Transient Spaces together with fellow art historian Daniella Dimova-Yaneva, said: “Katherina’s exhibition embodies what our curatorial programme is about at Threshold artspace. As Perth’s only public gallery and museum dedicated to contemporary art and artists’ moving image, Threshold artspace is also uniquely situated at the ‘threshold’ of a much-loved theatre and a concert hall, and thus uniquely positioned to explore the relationship between visual and performing arts, between visual arts and theatre as in case of Katherina’s work. Additionally, one of the fastest growing strands of our museum collection of contemporary art at Threshold artspace is of works by women artists. We are proud that 50% of our collection is comprised of works by women artists like Katherina’s or the Quebec artist and filmmaker Marlene Millar.”

“Katherina’s exhibition is the first opportunity for aficionados of theatre and contemporary art to discover the other, prolific yet under-represented side of Katherina, the visual artist. Following our encouraging sneak preview with Pete, I do hope that all our visitors will also enjoy discovering the intellectually stimulating yet raw and honest style of Katherina’s brush stroke. I believe that they will also be touched by the stories of those like Katherina, born on the cusp of the collapse of communism anywhere in post-socialist Europe, but also the stories of those who share the artist’s experiences of migration, identity and social class – leaving friends and family behind and looking for a better future.” 

Transient Spaces offers timely reflection on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergent debates in curatorial and artistic practice from the former East of Europe. Pete’s initial visit to the exhibition stirred a lot of his own reflections about the end of the Cold War and he pledged to continue the conversation by joining the artist and curators for the accompanying theatre performance Fallen Fruit and the post-show Q&A”.

(c) Alex Brenner
Fallen Fruit. Image: Alex Brenner

Katherina said: ‘I am so thrilled to have met Pete and will hold him to his pledge. It was great to have shown him around my first UK major survey show at Threshold artspace. The artspace is such an important cross art form institution which has been putting Perth on the international contemporary art world map since 2005! I am also so excited that the exhibition is pertinently timed to accompany the autumn tour of my Two Destination Language theatre production Fallen Fruit across Scotland. The tour of Fallen Fruit to Perth Theatre on 10 November is an essential part of the exhibition and in fact marks the very day some 30 years ago communism collapsed in Bulgaria.”

Pete was also the first visitor to appreciate Katherina’s ambitious new limited edition light art installation commissioned and acquired by Horsecross Arts as part of Collect + Support – the ongoing initiative for collectible contemporary art of which the first edition enters the public museum collection at Threshold artspace and the rest of the edition is made available to all exhibition patrons to purchase for their own collection. The light art work is inspired by the glowing, five-pointed Red Star – the central trope of communism – yet it traces the hand-drawn qualities of Katherina’s painterly style through light.

Transient Spaces Exhibition View Image by Iliyana Nedkova
Transient Spaces exhibition view. Image: Alex Brenner.

Communication and Collaboration: Clare Baker MSP Visits 201 Telephone Box Gallery in Strathkinness

201_SMPvisit
L-R: Helen Moore, SCAN, Members of Strathkinness Community Trust, Claire Baker MSP, Lada Wilson, Curator of 201 Telephone Box Gallery, Diana Skyes, Director of Fife Contemporary and Local Artist Bob Bilson. Photo: Scott Wilson

We joined artist and curator Lada Wilson for another great Art in Action visit in the Kingdom of Fife on the 21st August.

Claire Baker MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife) visited 201 Telephone Box Gallery in the village of Strathkinness last week to find out more about how a decommissioned telephone box was generating discussions at the heart of a community.

Due to a lack of use, the telephone box was on BT’s list for removal but local artist, curator and lecturer Lada Wilson instigated a project to convert it into a contemporary art gallery in 2018. It has now been adopted by Strathkinness Community Trust, and some of the members also joined us on Claire’s visit to talk about their support for the project.

Honouring the telephone box’s past theme of communication (in its broadest sense) is at the core of the project. All exhibitions aim to be collaborations between the artist, curator and the local community. Each exhibition is accompanied by an artist’s talk or presentation, sometimes with a workshop.

Claire Baker MSP seen the current exhibition There’s Nobody Home Right Now, Please Leave a Message With a Passing Stranger by Glasgow-based artist Helen Angell-Preece. Within the public space of the 201 Telephone Box Gallery, the artist has created a “threshold” experience for viewers – the threshold between inside and outside, between domestic and public. In the solidity of disintegrating, heavily upholstered furniture, an heirloom is torn apart and the raw materiality of its interior emerges, unfurling from its bounds, growing… fashioning itself into something new.

Diana Sykes from Fife Contemporary also joined us and shared information with Claire about the great work that they do to support the contemporary art and craft network in Fife. She also highlighted the high quality programme of exhibitions and events that they deliver by working with a range of partners and venues across the county.

Claire said: “The gallery provides a fantastic opportunity for the community to connect with visual art and has generated a lot of local discussion. I hope that through the Art in Action campaign, the role of art and artists in communities can be better understood so we can work to ensure better recognition of its value in decision-making at all levels.

The gallery itself demonstrates how the smallest of spaces can be used innovatively to explore ideas and bring visual arts into communities so it can be enjoyed and engaged with on people’s doorstep.”

ClaireBakerSMP.JPG
Claire Baker MSP and Lada Wilson with exhibition There’s Nobody Home Right Now, Please Leave a Message With a Passing Stranger by artist Helen Angell-Preece.

Art in Action Reaches Shetland Isles with Maree Todd MSP and Gaada

ECaxCS8VUAIekFx
Maree Todd MSP meeets with Amy Gear and Daniel Clark of Gaada at their studio in Da Auld Kirk, Burra Isle, Shetland.

Our most northern Art in Action visit was hosted by SCAN members Gaada, who met with Maree Todd MSP on the 20th August at their studio on Burra Isle, Shetland.

Maree met with Amy Gear and Daniel Clark, co-directors of Gaada and really enjoyed learning about the work that they do to engage meaningfully with issues experienced by Shetland communities.

Gaada is an artist-led community interest company that work in collaboration with a variety of individuals, artists, groups and organisations including schools, universities, councils, libraries and social enterprises. In partnership, they work to deliver a wide range of events that encourage skills sharing and learning.

Many workshops have a specialist focus on Printmaking, in particular, risograph and screenprinting and Gaada would live to turn their current studio into a fully accessible workshop facility for Shetland. Ultimately, they are passionate about reducing barriers to high quality creative development for the growing community of artists based there.

Maree Todd described the work that Gaada do as “empowering and exciting” and looks forward to hearing more about how this young organisation develops.

ECaxCTLU4Acrwfb
Print produced as part of Gaada printmaking workshop.