The Graduate's Guide to Art in Scotland
It's one thing to spend years involved in intense self-discovery at art school, but what happens afterwards? Here is a collection of personal and informally crowd-sourced advice on how to make that transition from art student to emerging artist
“Two years ago your sole objective was to get in here,” my friend Lauren was told by her tutor about halfway through her Fine Art Photography degree. “Now what’s your life ambition?” Maybe you’re a fresher, maybe you’re heading into your final year or perhaps you’ve picked this up as a fresh graduate. Sitting at graduation already on Jobseeker’s? Obviously totally fine, just have some idea of what’s next on the agenda.
You’ve just lost all your teachers, recent grads. Chances are, the drawback of a diverse student body now means a sizeable chunk of your friends have moved back somewhere. Or maybe you’ve just made the move to a new Scottish city. Either way, there’s a whole art community you’re now wittingly or unwittingly one of.
Most of this (thankfully) not-so-elite set will occasionally go to/give a talk, or take part in a discussion or Q&A event. As a personal plug, The Skinny's Art section also publish a weekly column that rounds up these various talks and events – alongside free openings with complimentary booze. See theskinny.co.uk/art.
Otherwise, keep a close eye on the websites and Twitters of Tramway, The Common Guild and Dundee Contemporary Arts. Living in a city is a cultural privilege, so as much as you (I) enjoy Netflix, try spending the odd evening talking about the thing you’re mortally passionate about.
Speaking of those invaluable peers, why not take a punt at putting together a group exhibition? They’re a laugh and a good incentive to work out what the hell you’re doing.
In Edinburgh, the relatively young Number Shop invites proposals via firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also places like Out of the Blue Arts Cafe with a range of spaces to rent. One of the major Scottish arts exhibition spaces, Summerhall boldly invites proposals via email@example.com, supplementing their curated programme. There’s also the Satellites programme by Collective Gallery, which provides mentor support and an exhibition opportunity to recent graduates. Rhubaba and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops are all good shouts.
In Glasgow, this year has seen The Old Hairdresser’s come into its own as a one-night exhibition space, so keep an eye on its website for its next call-out. Also keep close watch on the Telfer Gallery, the CCA and the Glasgow Project Room for its invitation for proposals.
Generator in Dundee (along with Transmission in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Embassy) run members’ shows that every year hang a huge array of work salon style, and are an accessible exhibition opportunity. Membership to all three of these indispensible art institutions is completely open, and usually made online for free or a negligible fee.
Volunteering and unpaid work
Unpaid work: is it ever worth it? ‘It’ being the £4 food and £3.50 travel that may or may not be offered. Sometimes large institutions try their luck, because they realise young artists and students are as usefully vulnerable as they are generally maligned.
Then again, there’s a genuinely grassroots festival like Open House, where pretty much no-one is getting paid, but is as important to the Glasgow art community as it is unremunerative. So, when weighing up your options, ask: how reasonable is it for the volunteer-hunters to ask you to do the job for free, considering its size and funding, as well as the nature of the work? Then be honest – is this something from which you will learn something genuinely useful, and will it serve you well in the future?
Getting more adventurous still, what about banding together with seven other students, setting up a voluntary Community Interest Company, finding then renting a suitable space, and leasing out studios?
That’s just what some graduates from Aberdeen and Dundee did last year, making the Visual Artists Unit. If you’d rather not do the legwork, they’re providing ‘groups of emerging artists with generously sized studio spaces at affordable prices’ in the East End of Glasgow, making use of what would otherwise be redundantly large industrial spaces.
Arts Funding & Studio Space
Maybe you have your own idea for a brand new artistic and/or social enterprise, or perhaps you’re ready to ask for some money to support more time to work in the studio. It’s time to make applications for funding.
Casting the net widely, physically speaking, there is The Directory of Grant Making Trusts, an annual publication that covers about 2,000 grant-making charities. It’s expensive, so find a recent edition in your local library. Online, in Scotland the best resource is opportunities.creativescotland.com and there’s artquest.org.uk, too.
Find a source of funding, then begin hours of self-reflection, writing, submit the application, wait, then find more funding and develop a coping mechanism to deal with the knockbacks. Suggestion: soothe rejection by making ten more applications in its place, because what matters is practice.
After making a business plan and budget, and aligning yourself financially to allow for the expense, there are different studio space providers across the country. Generally speaking, it’s a one in, one out state of affairs at the moment.
Just like flat hunting, a good first step is to make it known you’re looking for a studio, with subletting connections often being made through the six degrees of separation. For something more long-term, in Edinburgh there’s Rhubaba and The Number Shop. There’s also the incredibly sought-after Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop studio spaces, which are leased to graduates on a three-year reduced rate, and can be shared between up to three studio-holders.
Similarly in Glasgow there are the Glasgow Sculpture Studios, as well as the Crownpoint Studios (a part of which is managed by the Visual Artists’ Unit), The Whisky Bond, Studio Warehouse and the Grey Wolf Studios. Dundee has its very own Tin Roof Collective with small spaces starting at £30 a month. All across Scotland, the WASPS studios are run by a charitable organisation set on providing affordable studio spaces to artists. Generally, there is a waiting list and again it’s best to make an application as soon as possible.
Posting work online
What can you do right now, before making applications for studio spaces, emailing your soon-to-be mentor or sipping on that sweet free wine at an opening this Friday? To quote the 90s one-hit wonder, ‘If I could offer you one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.’ So slather some sunscreen on, then please God post your work somewhere online.
There is nothing more disappointing than Googling someone potentially very interesting only to discover that they have succeeded where Prince failed in essentially deleting themselves from the internet. Just 10 years ago your predecessors had to print slides only then to pay P&P to send them around the galleries.
Yes it’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating that the internet is magical, amazing, beautiful and terrifying. So learn the internet and get a website. Then congratulate yourself, because you’re now automatically one cajillion times more interesting than anonymous BSci, BEng and BSocSc graduate schemers – even if your salary will always be a fraction of those Waitrose-loving arseholes.