Art in Action: Summer Week 1

Our summer of Art in Action visits got off to a great start last week with the first visits taking place in Inverness and Dumfries and Galloway.

Colin Smyth MSP (South Scotland) visited SCAN members Cample Line in Thornhill and MERZ in Sanqhuar.

At Cample Line, Colin spoke to director Tina Fiske about future plans and also got a sneak preview of forthcoming exhibitions, Double Act by David Osbaldeston and Farm Weeds by Charlie Hammond.

Colin also visited MERZ and met with founder David Rushton who shared details of how MERZ re-purposed two neglected and derelict sites in Sanquhar: the former lemonade factory and abattoir buildings, into a studio, exhibition, production and museum facility.

Colin Smyth MSP said:

“It was especially good to visit two such fantastic projects in Mid and Upper Nithsdale. Even within Dumfries and Galloway, that part of our region can be overlooked when it comes to the arts but projects such as these are a real example of art in action on our doorstep, helping to regenerate communities.”

Rhoda Grant MSP (Highlands and Islands) met with new SCAN members CIRCUS Inverness, an exciting new collective of artists and producers. Rhoda discovered how committed CIRCUS are to making contemporary art accessible to a broader Highland audience as well as supporting recent art graduates in the area.

The Circus team talked about the plans for future and how important art is for Highland life, and Rhoda viewed their very first exhibition, Parade, in the new Inverness Creative Academy exhibition space which was opening to the public later that day.

Video: Merz Workshop



Cample Line | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

CIRCUS Inverness | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

MERZ | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Art in Action


Tina Fiske, director of SCAN member Cample Line on art and place

CAMPLE LINE was established in 2016 in Dumfries and Galloway in a building that is part of a former Victorian mill complex, staging its first exhibition in March 2017. Rooted in the local community while at the same time developing a programme that is international in its scope, it has quickly developed a reputation for its commitment to contemporary art in a rural context.


‘We made a decision very early on to work with artists that interest us, but within a framework of things that we felt were relevant to Cample and the surrounding area. We are located in a rural, agricultural setting – Cample is a tiny hamlet and we’re two miles from Thornhill, a large village with a population of about 2,500.

‘What we wanted to figure out from the start was a pretext for bringing in artists from elsewhere to this context. We were very clear that the artists’ work should be international in scope or they themselves should be internationally-based – we’re working towards that, and trying to find ways to connect international stories with local ones. 


‘It was partly for this reason that we invited the Stockholm-based artist Jacqueline Hoang Nguyento show her installation Black Atlasin our spring programme this year alongside films by Maeve Brennan and Laura Waddington. Black Atlasis the outcome of a residency Jacqueline did in the archive of the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, and we felt it offered an international context to a very local story about a doctor, Doctor Grierson, who in 1872 opened his own ethnographic museum in Thornhill.

 ‘The objects in Dr Grierson’s Museum were gathered in part through the sons and daughters of the area who were in the military, or civil service abroad, or perhaps missionaries. Much of the collection is now held in Dumfries Museum after it was forced to close in the 1960s.

‘We commissioned a local poet and writer JoAnne McKay to read part of the catalogue that Grierson produced of hismuseum,and she also responded to Jacqueline’s work. It was very interesting to have that dialogue and Dumfries Museum were very helpful too – it’s a way of creating points of relevance.


‘Our surroundings at CAMPLE LINE are very beautiful, but we are also in a working environment – we’re next to a joinery firm and surrounded by farms. We’re also here to work and so we try to respond to the work that everyone else is doing, too. We’re very conscious of that and try and bring it into our programme.  

‘We aim to keep the quality of what we do as high as possible, and it’s important to us that we can draw on the skills of our local trades people to achieve that. We also work closely with local schools – both primary and secondary – and through our Young Assistants Programme funded by the Holywood Trust we’ve been able to employ local young people, including Lucy and Grace who live in Cample.

 ‘It is important to us to be part of our community and to work for our wider community. At the same time, we want to develop as a contemporary art space and organisation. We’re interested in building everyone’s understanding of that, everyone’s trust in that, everyone’s sense that it’s for them. And that takes time.’



Collective’s Kate Gray on Workers! and how art opens up new spaces for change

In November 2018 Collective opened their new home on Calton Hill, Edinburgh in the restored City Observatory. Collective’s recent exhibition in the City Dome was of Workers!, a new film initiated by Collective by Swedish-artist and filmmaker Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP, a sex-worker led organisation in Scotland.


‘When we moved to our new spaceat the City Observatory, which fully opened last November, we knew we wanted to connect with different groups in our locality. We set out to rethink what an observatory could be for the city, so our commissions aim to engage with current debates and struggles, both in Edinburgh and around the world.

‘The Workers! film stemmed from us inviting Petra Bauerto visit Collective in 2015. She began a process of research around potential connections between her practice and local groups. It was as part of this that we met SCOT-PEP, an organisation that advocates for the rights of sex workers. The film is co-authored by Petra and SCOT-PEP.

‘One of SCOT-PEP’s challenges is that they struggle to be heard, because their members often can’t be visible due to the stigma attached to their work and the campaigns they’re running. This was of interest to Petra because a lot of what she does in her practice is looking at how women organise and how that is represented in history. When the term ‘sex workers’ is used, most people focus on the first word. But in order for them to be safe and have rights they campaign for, the second word needs to be brought to the fore. That’s why the title of the film is simply Workers!’


‘The way we do things at Collective is that a Producer – in this case Frances Stacey – is allocated to each project. They work with and for the artist and group, to support and allow the project to emerge. It’s a very generative process; the initial conversations are the seeds that germinate over a long period of time. Frances organised workshops and meetings throughout the project, ensuring that everyone involved was being heard, listened to and represented.


‘When we first started talking to SCOT-PEP they immediately mentioned that they had an ambition to make a banner. We were really interested in that idea and how it connects to traditional trade union banners and tapestries, but it’s not what Petra does, so they worked with the artist Fiona Jardine to make it. It’s an object that is both an artwork and a useful tool – for example, it was taken out of the exhibition to be used on May Day. There are two copies, one of which belongs to SCOT-PEP.

‘At Collective we believe art can open up a different space where observation in its widest sense can have a role. We can look at ourselves and we can look at questions in a different way – in a new light.’

Workers! by Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP continues at Collective until 30 June 2019.It will also be screened to attendees of the A-N Assembly in Aberdeen, on 4 July.

Pictures: 1-2) Workers!, Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP, film still, 2018. 3) Workers!, Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP. Banner by Fiona Jardine and SCOT-PEP. Photography by Tom Nolan.

SCAN member Robyn Woolston tells us about her Art in Action

Robyn Woolston is an artist based near Laggan, in the Highlands of Scotland. Her work takes her around the country and beyond, and she often works alongside people to create contemporary art that reflects space and place.


‘The majority of my work is resolutely situated within the community; whilst sometimes it’s purely environmental and sculptural. I think as artists we’re enmeshed in the community and we have a role to democratise art – it’s the opposite of the white-walled gallery. It’s about people understanding that their voice is equally as important as any artist’s voice. It’s about rebalancing the power.

‘For a recent project with primary school pupils, my aim was for us to produce something that would help them and other people to ‘linger longer’ in the local park, which has had some problems with anti-social behaviour. I wanted to enable them to stop and look at the environment in a way they haven’t before, to potentially view it in a way that makes them take more pride in the park. Whilst enhancing a wider sense of ownership & care-taking of the space from a community perspective.

‘I always need some research time before I start a project, so for this one I needed to spend time in the park, look at local archives – if I’m going to work with any kind of authenticity I’ve got to really get a flavour of the environment and what’s going on. The area has an incredibly dynamic history locally and globally in relation to linen, textiles, calico, cotton – I wanted to help the children realise this more fully.



‘I always say that I have to be like a mirror and a sponge; so I’ve got to take on board as many different perspectives as I can, but I also have to reflect back to people where they’re situated, where they’re heading towards. So I’m present, listening, taking as much in as I can but at the same time I’m helping to activate, reinvigorate.

‘Frequently with the projects I do I’ll bring my expertise in terms of say fabrication methods and, because I used to work in media production, I may bring my producing expertise too. But for me it’s always person-centred, so I build the framework but it’s open ended enough to allow the participants to take the journey on board – because it’s their journey not mine. I’m there as an instigator rather than a facilitator.

‘Outcomes that are both embedded and professional are really important, because I want the participants to be a bit bowled over by the fact that this is their work. I love that moment where I get a chance to stand back and look at people’s faces as they see themselves within the work, whether they’re a little kid or someone in their nineties. That’s a golden moment for me.’

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Great coverage in week one of Art in Action

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Artlink’s Ideas Team performing at Cherry Road Learning Centre, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian.

We’ve been bowled over by the response to the launch of Art in Action this week. Lots of members and non-members have shared and commented on the launch on social media, so thank you to you all!

We’re already chatting to members around the country about organising visits from MSPs to see what they are up to. If you would like suggestions or assistance with this, head to our Get involved page for downloadable logos and a template for emailing your MSP, or get in touch using for suggestions and assistance. We’ll be adding to this page with more material over the next week.

In the press, we’ve had coverage of the campaign launch in The Herald, BBC News, the National, i newspaper, Metro and aN.

It’s a great way to start the campaign. Now it’s time for the real work to begin, as we work with members to help get MSPs along to see how contemporary visual art plays an intrinsic role in their communities. Meanwhile, it’s worth reading about the Visual Arts Manifesto, from which the Art in Action campaign has grown.

Image: Colin Hattersley

MSPs pledge support for Art in Action motion in Parliament

The debating chamber at the Scottish Parliament

After week one of Art in Action, 16 MSPs from across the parties have pledged their support for the motion raised by Tom Arthur MSP to mark the launch of the campaign.

Take a look at the list and see if your local MSP has pledged support – if they have, head to our get involved page for tips on how to invite them to see your Art in Action over the summer.

They are:

  • Liam McArthur, Lib Dem MSP for Orkney
  • Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North
  • Stuart McMillan, SNP MSP for Greenock and Clyde
  • Sandra White, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin
  • John Mason, SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston
  • Bill Kidd, SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland
  • Bob Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow Maryhill
  • David Torrance, SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy
  • Jenny Gilruth, SNP MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes
  • Gil Paterson, SNP MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie
  • Claire Baker, Scottish Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife
  • Maureen Watt, SNP MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine
  • Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast
  • Fulton MacGregor, SNP MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston
  • Clare Adamson, SNP MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw

We’ll be working to encourage more MSPs to show their support over coming weeks.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Tom Arthur MSP lodges motion in support of Art in Action

Tom Arthur MSP

Tom Arthur, MSP for Renfrewshire South, has lodged a motion this week in Parliament to mark the launch of the Art in Action campaign.

Mr Arthur is a member of the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Culture, and has spoken out on issues around access to culture for all.

The motion reads:

Art in Action

That the Parliament welcomes the launch of the Art in Action campaign by the Scottish Contemporary Art Network as a means to celebrate and champion the positive role that art plays in all of our lives; notes that the Network is a member-led group representing arts organisations and artists in Scotland; acknowledges that culture and creativity are not an add-on but central to how we live; encourages members across Parliament to visit an artist or arts organisation in their constituency over the summer recess period and share their experiences with others in their local community and beyond.