Travelling Gallery – ‘Art in a Bus’

Art Bus Travelling Gallery 02

“If art is for everyone then surely Travelling Gallery is the best example of that.”

Andrew Menzies, driver/guide, Travelling Gallery

For more than 40 years Travelling Gallery has been enriching lives by bringing art and artists, ideas and opportunities to schools and communities in inner cities, suburbs, towns, villages and remote rural areas.

Founded in 1978 its impact has been huge, engaging with people of every age and background giving them the opportunity to experience excellent, experimental and inspiring practices.

Visitors to the specially equipped and converted bus are often experiencing a contemporary art gallery for the first time and it regularly visits places with little or no contemporary art provision. Many of these communities are identified with the highest deprivation in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).

Between 2012 and 2018 Travelling Gallery:

  • Attracted over 108,000 visitors, nearly 60,000 in schools
  • Visited 32 local authority areas
  • Averaged 53 venues per tour
  • Provided 2,268 artist-led learning events and talks by staff.

But these figures only tell part of the story. Travelling Gallery harnesses the power of art to change lives with projects that are inclusive, relevant and accessible.

In spring 2018 it celebrated the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People by inviting artists to showcase work that depicted adolescence; Are Teenage Dreams So Hard to Beat? The participating artists included Arpita Shah, Holly White and Alice Theobald.

Another strength is its support for emerging talent. From August to early December 2018 the gallery worked on Black Box Take Stock with emerging performance artist Gordon Douglas. He valued this chance to engage with audiences he might not otherwise connect with.

“It was a really good opportunity to try and communicate my research and artistic practice to people who are much younger or much less familiar with the jargon and lingo within the visual arts; it was great to have their input. One of the things I learnt from that experience is not to assume anything.”

Gordon Douglas, artist

The gallery is perfect for outreach, swapping formal settings for a relaxed and open space. It fires imaginations while creating links with artists and arts organisations. Beyond this the gallery encourages visitors to view and seek out contemporary art and to recognise the creativity in their own lives.

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The Spring 2015 tour, Design in Motion, was the first-ever travelling exhibition from V&A Museum of Design Dundee. This collaboration took exhibits, designers and the V&A team on a 3,500 mile journey round urban, suburban and rural Scotland, raising awareness of our design industries.

Design in Motion was created to inspire and showcased seven innovative designers who push the boundaries of their disciplines – including games, jewellery, fashion, textiles and built heritage. It attracted 10,000 people and visited venues including Glasgow Science Centre and the Scottish Parliament, engaging with future designers in 39 schools and 16 colleges and universities across Scotland.

Another exhibition, in 2017, was in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library, and presented new work by Lauren Printy Currie, derived from her residency at the library. Her body remembered a night-blooming cereus, sweated industry and salt (what came near) toured widely to areas including the Orkney Islands, Dumfries and Galloway, Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Scottish Borders.

In the education, criminal justice and health sectors, the opportunity to engage with contemporary art is invaluable. It stimulates conversation and promotes creative learning, leading to improved wellbeing, employability and skills development.

Travelling Gallery has built strong partnerships with local authorities, schools, colleges, hospitals and prisons to create a sense of place and improve quality of life through an understanding of the potential of creativity.

Each exhibition has a strong creative learning programme of artist talks, film screenings, workshops, events, learning packs and interpretative materials. This means it affects people’s lives in many ways.

“Access to contemporary art means different things to different people. For many it is an opportunity to question concepts or mediums they might not have associated with art before. It can make people laugh, feel sad, and encourage discussion across all ages and abilities.”       

Jo Arksey, Learning and Engagement Coordinator

It is not just the gallery but also its staff that are valued by visitors and service users.

“I love the way the guides work. They’re so thoughtful and sensitive and they really pitch it differently for different classes based on the age and stage but also just the vibe. They’re really skilled at what they do.”
Ruth MacCormick, secondary school teacher, Glasgow

Figures from 2012 indicate a nearly 20% difference in cultural participation between the least and most deprived areas (Creative Scotland EDI Inclusion Report April 2015[1]). Travelling Gallery’s engagement in these areas can make a real difference.


“Travelling Gallery has reached hundreds of young people here who just wouldn’t have that kind of experience otherwise; learning outside of the classroom, giving young people an extraordinary experience of something creative. It makes them think differently. For such a huge number I think the impact is enormous.”

Ruth MacCormick, secondary school teacher, Glasgow

“You cannot predicate people’s appreciation of contemporary art based on their postcode, their education, or their income. The biggest impact is that people feel that they are catered for, that they are included, that they are valued.”                                 

Andrew Menzies, driver/guide

The gallery’s broad ethos successfully impacts on outcomes in relation to education, health and social care, and people and society. This is key to it achieving its vision of a nation in which everybody has the opportunity to engage in the arts and to realise the positive change that art can encourage.

“By even slightly rearranging reality for people you allow them to have more understanding of how they can change things. I think the arts have the ability to hold up a mirror to people and allow them to see these things.”                                                              

Gordon Douglas, artist

Travelling Gallery brings contemporary art to a wide audience, changing perceptions of the arts and what art and creativity has to offer. Hopefully the journey will continue for another 40 years.

To find out more email or call 0131 529 3930

Twitter @travgallery



Additional Reading:


Acknowledgements: SCAN would like to thank Travelling Gallery and colleagues for taking part in this Case Study, including Jo Arksey, (Learning and Engagement coordinator), Andrew Menzies (Driver/Guide), Gordon Douglas (current resident Artist), and Ruth MacCormick (Teacher at St Andrew’s RC Secondary School in Glasgow).


Pictures: Colin Hattersley