Making Better Worlds: SCAN's Summer Campaign
Scottish Contemporary Art Network has been tirelessly advocating for cultural workers in Scotland for many years – director Moira Jeffrey fills us in on their latest public campaign, Artists Make A Better World
Launched this summer, the Scottish Contemporary Art Network’s (SCAN) Artists Make a Better World campaign plastered the faces of contemporary artists on billboards across Scotland. As well as promoting the importance of contemporary art to the health and wellbeing of our communities, the campaign also aims to reach out to policy-makers and politicians to "motivate them to support artists in budget and policy decisions," says Moira Jeffrey.
The campaign stunningly represents the expansive scope of artistic practices in Scotland and the contribution of cultural workers to our cities, to our islands and to the nation’s place on the international stage. For the public poster and social media campaign, SCAN worked with a variety of artists and organisations across the country whose work aligns with the organisation’s values. These include Sculpture House, an artist-led collective who have transformed a Victorian town house in Paisley into a community resource, complete with a clay workshop, plaster workshop and kiln. The space was opened in 2022 by artists Nick Evans, Laura Aldridge and James Rigler, who encourage the use of the space for collaborative workshops and events.
Christian Noelle Charles, a Glasgow-based artist, also features in the campaign. Charles’s multidisciplinary practice speaks to solidarity between Black female creatives in Scotland, through the lens of video, printmaking and performance. Her recent exhibition at Edinburgh Printmakers, titled WHAT A FEELING! | ACT I was part of Edinburgh Art Festival this year, and Charles’s upcoming performance at Take Me Somewhere festival in Glasgow on Saturday 14 October will form the follow-up ‘act’.
SCAN also works directly with its members to platform and raise awareness of their work. In August, the organisation arranged for MSPs to visit a number of artists and organisations in their studios, galleries and venues so they could witness the workings of the creative industries in their constituencies – an opportunity to both showcase creative work but also for MSPs to understand some of the challenges that cultural workers are currently facing. Jeffrey mentions a number of artists and organisations that participated, including Project Ability, a Glasgow-based organisation supporting people with learning disabilities and mental ill-health, Alena Rogozhkina, an Edinburgh-based Ukrainian artist specialising in community wellbeing and Soulisquoy Printmakers, an artist-led workshop in Orkney bringing accessible printmaking to the island’s artists and communities.
SCAN has been campaigning for the rights of cultural workers since 2012 and has supported the creative industries through some tough times, including the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and throughout the ten-plus years of Tory austerity and cuts. SCAN regularly engages with the Scottish Government on cultural policy, platforming the voices of its members. "An example [of SCAN’s advocacy] was our response to the Draft Culture budget for 2023/24 – we gave evidence in Parliament, collated from our members and peers, and spearheaded a campaign to reverse the proposed 10% budget cuts to Creative Scotland," Jeffrey explains.
The campaign was successful initially, with the Scottish Government agreeing to reverse the proposed budget cut. However, at the end of September, culture secretary Angus Robertson confirmed the £6.6 million budget cut would be made, as a result of “rising costs and pressure on budgets across government, made more challenging as a result of rising UK inflation.” These cuts will be incredibly detrimental to Scotland’s creative industries at all levels and puts over 2000 jobs at risk. In response, SCAN has promised to support the organisations who will be affected by these cuts: with a focus on "supporting (organisations) rather than make more demands of time and resources." Another organisation, Campaign for the Arts is now inviting members of the public to write to their MSPs and to sign and share their petition – you can sign it here.
As Jeffrey points out, all of us who understand the importance of contemporary art to the health and wellbeing of our communities can make a difference in fighting for the amazing work that arts organisations and cultural workers do. Jeffrey suggests "writing to your MSP to ask them to support artists in the next budget. We find there is nothing more powerful than face to face meetings with local politicians, like councillors and MSPs, they are surprised and often blown away by the work that goes on."
To find out more about SCAN’s work, you can sign up to their free e-bulletin, the SCAN Circular, or, even better, become a member. The money raised through membership goes directly into campaigning, and members’ voices are amplified in the process of advocacy. You can find out more at sca-net.org