Imagine a family tree of Scotland’s artist-run initiatives with Glasgow’s Transmission at the top along with Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery, both founded over 20 years ago. Generator (Dundee) and Limousine Bull (Aberdeen) slot in during the 90s. Expansion from 2000 is rapid with organisations like the Embassy (Edinburgh) and EmergeD (Glasgow/Edinburgh) filling out the lower branches. As the community continues to grow, this increasingly diverse and prolific arts scene connects galleries to art schools, publications, festivals, museums and education projects. Entrepreneurial enterprise comes up against economics, national identity, regeneration, social inclusion, lottery funding and creative industries. Artists commune with curators, writers, collaborators, committees, boards and funders.
In the centre of this grand network of people and spaces, is EmergeD, an artists’ collective presenting site-specific projects. Artist/co-ordinators Juliana Capes and Kirsten Lloyd feel that these initiatives have ‘played a defining role, offering new models that often become part of the establishment’, consequently priming a new area of collaboration. Artists unofficially borrow the language of the establishment to assert themselves. In return, public/commercial galleries appropriate the impromptu ‘coolness’ of artists’ spaces created by necessary scruffiness (lack of money) and by an ability to react and adapt fast. It is this adaptability that has built a case for reclassifying the sector as a research and development branch. The result of this exchange is that galleries such as central Edinburgh’s Total Kunst create power on the fringe. Reluctant to conform, the group stirs up continual debate on the constraints of contemporary practice and personal expression, from the floor of umbrella organisation the Forest Café.
Whilst there is little currency in the idea of a truly alternative scene or gallery, the artist-run initiative is a fertile testing-ground. Financial and artistic risks are less daunting outside the public or commercial sectors. There is more room for experimentation and failure. Art can be represented anywhere and boundaries redrawn. Musicians too are eager to join art events as an alternative to gigs or nightclubs. A resurgence of event-based projects, such as those organised by the Chateau (famous now for its connections with ex-Glasgow School of Art students, Franz Ferdinand), Something Haptic, Aurora and the Embassy/Magnificat, provide a platform for performance, video and live arts. This signals a shift from the public-minded neo-conceptualism of the 90s to projects intent on nourishing and developing a strong artists’ community.
Parochial or not, these projects engage with their localities in new ways. Cabin Exchange advocates a literal but unpredictable interpretation of public art by dropping industrial containers around Glasgow city centre and inviting artsts to use them in any way imaginable. Market’s two shop units in the east end of Glasgow give it high street credibility. Some artist-run projects publish, run film nights or set up web projects. Many provide slide banks and computers for local artists. Others distribute newsletters or encourage e-mail dialogue.
The membership/committee model pioneered by Transmission 25 years ago allowed artists to maintain control of the space as well as the art, while encouraging commitment to strong national and international networks. It’s a formula popular with new organisations and has been emulated with great success.
But it is critical that newcomers do not simply copy existing organisations, thereby offering bargain basement replicas of core-funded institutions. Artists must innovate and develop their own ideas. The Collective, for example, has been a major influence and support to emerging artists, but has grown up into a public gallery with funding, a board, a director, an artists’ selection committee and a large member base. Over the years it has developed and upgraded its premises. In contrast, Glasgow’s Switchspace closed its doors in December 2004 with a solo show by Cathy Wilkes having run a hugely successful programme for over five years. Its founders have moved on to build on their success elsewhere: Marianne Greeted as an artist, Sorcha Dallas as owner of an eponymous gallery. Both leave a legacy for the next generation of artists in the city.
Artist-run galleries act as fertile training grounds for many young artists. Managing events, presenting exhibitions and gallery administration are all skills that come with the territory. A spell on a committee now serves as serious work experience for visual arts and professionals. It’s an opportunity to collaborate with others, gaining valuable organisational, curating and critical skills. It can also provide a living through the combination of workshops, teaching, arts admin, sales, commissions, residencies and part-time work.
Working as an artist while organising Aurora projects, I am aware of the need for artist-run projects to develop organically without interference or regulation. This means a rethink for funding bodies, whose money is inevitably subject to conditions and classifications. While many projects survive on a low/no-budget strategy, artists should be wary of a situation that expects them to be content with the implied heroicism of a struggle for its own sake. Money should be and is often sought from a variety of sources.
Edinburgh’s out of the blue are pioneers of a new independence from traditional funding. In 2004 this organisation made the landmark decision to purchase a massive building, the ex-Territorial Army Drill Hall in Leith, close to the city centre. Securing a bank loan was an inspired move adding 50 studio spaces to the Edinburgh art scene with another 50 and further development planned.
Decentralisation and entrepreneurial instincts continue to strengthen artists’ activity around the country. However, work is still to be done, particularly away from the Central Belt. Justin Orde, current chairman of Limousine Bull, feels initiatives in Aberdeen must be more enticing to art school graduates. The volume of students who relocate elsewhere after graduation makes for a scene which pitches and troughs and much of the confidence and energy one sees building through the course of a year sadly dissipates. New premises and planned local and international collaborations will attempt to change this in 2005.
In the early 90s, Claire Barclay described beating the diaspora in Glasgow, where it was possible to take a shift away from seeing yourself as being a single entity who, as a committed artist, would have to move to London. ‘People decided to stay in the city, to collaborate and initiate projects. That became the basis for the supportive community now,’ she said. In the noughties, this shift is extending to Edinburgh, where artists starting up on their own are creating a vibrant scene and a peer group that acts as a source of encouragement, discourse and support. Despite any worrying tendencies to define themselves against other organisations (whether at the other end of the M8 or M1) decentralisation continues to strengthen artist-led activity around the country.
In a New Labour, post-YBA social climate, artist-entrepreneurialism offers a way of branding and promoting an otherwise singularly isolated activity. Scotland’s geographical position as a relative periphery means that it is small enough to project a single identity but large enough to maintain diversity. Beyond self-mythology, strong networks are making and showing contemporary art to high standards. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is an enviable cultural position to live in, with artist-run galleries at the centre of it all.
Exhibitions, installations, music, films, performance and projections in temporary spaces. Opening nights operate as one-off socials with live elements and unique hand-made promotional material created for each event. Working with less established artists and musicians, co-ordinator Ruth Beale aims to promote discussion and interaction within the arts community.
++ 44 (0)7729 804588
HYPERLINK “http://www.auroraproject.co.uk” www.auroraproject.co.ukCabin Exchange
This unique take on public art puts industrial containers around Glasgow and invites artists to make, perform or exhibit work in them for no more than 24 hours. Initially part of Glasgow School of Art’s activities week, it has since grown into an annual week-long event, spilling over into the capital in 2003 in collaboration with Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. The website creates a forum of virtual cabins. For more information contact Will Foster on HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org.Cell 77
Creating a new approach to project spaces, how they are run and how they work, this forum led by artist Naomi Garriock aims to promote a diverse range of unpretentious creativity. The pilot programme in Autumn 2004 was held in the cell’s headquarters which houses a mix of creatives including artists, Product magazine advertisers, designers, film-makers and writers.
77 Montgomery Street
++ 44 (0)131 558 5400
HYPERLINK “http://www.cell77.co.uk” www.cell77.co.uk
Famed for its association with Franz Ferdinand, this 5,000 square foot event/visual art/design/music/studio and drama space in almost-riverside/city centre/art deco panoramica is now legendary.
email@example.com to receive info about events
Originally established as an artist-run space in 1984, the Collective has developed into an independent exhibition, commissioning and development agency, supporting emergent Scottish contemporary artists within the context of an international programme. It has a board, a director and a volunteer committee of artists. The annual New Work Scotland Programme shows work by recent graduates selected by a guest committee of artists and curators.
++ 44 (0)131 2201 260
HYPERLINK “http://www.collectivegallery.co.uk” www.collectivegallery.co.uk
An international artist-run, non-profit outfit promoting and enabling emerging artists. Its fresh focus on site-specific, context-led art works creates accessible projects in orphaned spaces – empty shop fronts being among the most recent gaffs. In 2005 EmergeD branches out into Edinburgh (the first project at Total Kunst) and Leeds.
++ 44 (0)7947 749 818
A non-profit artist-run organisation with a member base and seven volunteer artist directors. After setting up temporary exhibitions in domestic property, a disused shop and public spaces, The Embassy opened a three-roomed gallery in central Edinburgh in May 2004. The group also co-ordinates a professional practice course at Edinburgh College of Art.
76 East Crosscauseway
+44 (0)131 667 2808
Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop
This indoor/outdoor studio complex near the port of Leith supports emerging and established artists and regularly organises exhibitions and events.
++ 44 (0)131 551 4490
HYPERLINK “mailto:Kirsten@edinburghsculpture.org” Kirsten@edinburghsculpture.org
HYPERLINK “http://www.edinburgh-sculpture.org.uk” www.edinburgh-sculpture.org.ukgenerator
Established in 1996, generator remains Dundee’s most important artist-run space. Run by artist volunteers, the gallery shows work by emerging artists and has strong links with the Mid Wynd artists’ studios.
25/26 Mid Wynd Industrial Estate
+44 (0)1382 225 982
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
HYPERLINK “http://www.generatorprojects.com” www.generatorprojects.com
Glasgow Project Room
An exhibiting organisation set up by Glasgow-based artist Alex Frost.
241 Kenmure Street
++44 (0)141 423 0065
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.comGlasgow Sculpture Studios
Set up in 1988, this national and international centre for sculpture provides workshop facilities and a new gallery space with increasingly adventurous exhibitions.
++ 44 (0)141 553 1188
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.comLimousine Bull
The North East’s biggest voluntary artists’ organisation. Events, exhibitions, newsletter and a website promote contemporary art and artists in Aberdeen. Membership is open to artists and designers working in any media. Limousine Bull has recently relocated, with an expected opening date of 1 March 2005.
Unit 3C, Deemouth Business Centre
South Esplande East
+44 (0)1224 590 600
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
A high street gallery in the east end of Glasgow, market presents a dynamic programme of local, national and international art. Occupying two breezeblock shop units, it is keen to embrace artists at all stages of their careers and is run by a board of artists. The gallery also runs exchange, residency and education programmes. Committee member James Hodgson says that without artist-run initiatives, the sustainability of contemporary Scottish art would be at least questionable, if not a non sequitur.
334 Duke Street
+44 (0)141 556 7276, ++ 44 (0)7719 184 321
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
Based in the white room space of a tenement flat, this gallery was established in March 2004 by Sara Barker, Hannah Robinson and Harriet Tritton to provide a platform for young artists at an early stage of their careers.
45 Alexandra Park Street
+44 (0)141 550 8097
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
HYPERLINK “http://www.marymarygallery.co.uk” www.marymarygallery.co.ukout of the blue
Established in 1994, oub runs one of the most popular music venues in Edinburgh, the Bongo Club, as well as providing 60 studios for artists in new premises at The Drill Hall.
The Drill Hall
32-36 Dalmeny Street,
++ 44 (0)131 555 7100
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
HYPERLINK “http://www.thebongoclub.co.uk” www.thebongoclub.co.uk
This long established gallery in a former bakery is owned and run by Scotland’s largest studio space provider, WASPS. Sixty studios share the building.
48 Hamilton Place
++ 44 (0)131 226 7921
Established in 2001, this Glasgow artists’ collective explores gallery, public, site-specific and curating opportunities on a national and international level. The publishing arm of the organisation, Trajectory, publishes a growing band of artists and writers, advancing an intelligent critical space within contemporary practice.
This artist-run gallery emerged in late 2003 when the non-profit Forest Café moved. It provides a place to show work and a contact point for artists – anyone can join – simply sign up to the e-group below. Regular talks and events are held in the café: a non-conformist stance enables energetic debate on contemporary culture.
3 Bristo Place
+44 (0)131 220 4538
An increasingly high profile art scene has emerged in Glasgow with Transmission, providing a place where artists can meet, talk and exhibit along with local and international peers, at its centre. Set up in 1983 by graduates from Glasgow School of Art dissatisfied with the lack of exhibition spaces and opportunities for young artists in Glasgow, this city centre gallery has thrived, with support from the Scottish Arts Council and other sponsorship, for 25 years. Invited artists have now become part of the busy exhibition programme and in 2004, the gallery pitched up at London’s Frieze Art Fair. Contacts have grown internationally through similar projects such as City Racing in London and Artemisia in Chicago. It also became the model for organisations such as Catalyst in Belfast and generator in Dundee. Managed by six volunteers who serve for up to two years, Transmission continues to be fuelled by the energies and ideas of each new generation of artists.
28 King Street
Glasgow G1 5QP
+44 (0)141 552 4813
Based in Glasgow, this newly formed artists’ group specialises in photography but is branching out into other media. Run by six artists, it exhibits in selected venues around the country and is building on its international focus. Interest from other artists is always welcome.
HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com