Friday, 28 December 2012

Anger is an energy - by Andrew Eaton-Lewis

“WHAT we’re trying to do is inject some energy into the ecology,” said Creative Scotland’s Venu Dhupa back in May this year, announcing a radical restructuring of funding that would see large numbers of arts organisations competing for pots of one-off project money.

Well, it worked, although probably not in the way Dhupa, the organisation’s senior director of creative development, had imagined. The rebellion against Creative Scotland – which peaked with 100 Scottish artists writing an open letter condemning its “ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language, lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture” and culminated in this month’s resignation of chief executive Andrew Dixon – can largely be traced back to this single decision.

Instead of energising artists to become more entrepeneurial, the funding shake-up energised its critics to voice long-held doubts about what the organisation was doing. (First up was this newspaper’s Joyce McMillan, who immediately and memorably condemned the move as embodying “a kind of undead Thatcherism, a half-baked, hollowed-out, public-sector version of market theory that reduces the language of creativity to a series of flat-footed business school slogans, and imposes a crude ethic of sado-competition on areas of society where co-operation and mutual respect matter more.”

So it’s appropriate that Dhupa, credited as the architect of the changes, resigned last week. Like Dixon, her statement is entirely unapologetic (it is not remotely clear, reading it, why she is actually leaving). But at least it was more dignified than that of Dixon, who petulantly lashed out at the critics who didn’t “respect and support” him.

Where does this leave Creative Scotland? In limbo. Dixon will remain in his job until January, Dhupa will leave a month later. It remains to be seen whether the organisation’s chairman, Sir Sandy Crombie, can follow up on the recent promise of change in a way that will win back the trust of the people the organisation alienated this year. Here’s hoping.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


When walking in some woodland in Yorkshire, I came across loads of ceramic pipes which made me think about some possible ways of displaying work.

Sculptural paintings

Friday, 14 December 2012

Artists forced to survive on £100 a week - Scotsman newspaper article

Thursday 13 December 2012

THREE-quarters of visual artists in Scotland are earning less than £5,000 a year, according to a new report.

Just five per cent of artists surveyed for the study said they were earning more than £15,000 after tax and expenses.

When it came to actual turnover, 70 per cent of those who took part in the study for the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) were generating less than £10,000 a year.

The SAU, which has been campaigning for a fairer deal for self-employed artists, said the figures present a “stark and 
worrying depiction” of their earnings across Scotland.
It has collected more than 500 signatures on a petition demanding the setting up of a “reliable, accessible and effective infrastructure” for artists.

The union also wants to see a minimum-pay rate for artists enforced via all publicly funded bodies and organisations.

The SAU, which has more than 900 members, has been one of the most vocal critics of arts body Creative Scotland, calling for greater transparency in its work and claiming there was “no confidence” in the agency across the visual arts sector.

It said it had carried out the study over the last few months because it was concerned at a lack of evidence “in the public domain” about working conditions and professional circumstances of artists.

More than half – 57 per cent – of those surveyed by the SAU had either never applied for nor received public funding for their work, while 43 per cent were having to support their practice through part-time work.

Two-thirds of artists were having to work from home, which the union says raised questions about the affordability of rented studio space and the financial security of having a professional practice.

Only seven per cent of artists who took part in the anonymous poll said their turnover was more than £25,000. However, this does not take into account the likes of hiring studio space and the cost of materials.

President Rowena Comrie said: “The turnover most artists bring in is scarily low and it’s hard to imagine how they would survive without tax credits. A lot of people have partners that support them and some have part-time jobs, but these figures are very worrying.”
Earlier this month, award-winning writer James Kelman revealed he made just £15,000 last year. After collecting his latest honour, the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year prize, he said: “And that after being a writer for about 40 years.”

There has been anger from artists after it emerged Creative Scotland’s chief executive Andrew Dixon will get six months’ salary – about £60,000 – after he leaves his post in January.

Mr Dixon has borne the brunt of criticism over the running of the agency, which has a budget of more than £83 million.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Market Gallery visit

Tonight I went to the Market Gallery Committee meeting to discuss my forthcoming residency. It was good to meet with Kirsty and Emmie, two of the committee members I had not previously met.

Kirsty informed me that she organises the volunteers to help the artists in residence, and I explained the kind of work that I will be needing assistance with. One of my aims for the residency is to work on a larger scale, and this will not be possible without help from others.

When we went to look at the gallery that I will be using, the space appeared completely different to how I had seen it before. I think that is because I was looking at it for different reasons - usually I go to visit the exhibitions, but this time i was thinking about how I could use the space.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Screenprint experiments

I really enjoy the unpredictable nature of the outcome when doing a blended screenprint.

 Each print really is unique.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Statement from the board of Creative Scotland 07/12/2012

This statement details the commitments for change as agreed by the Creative Scotland Board at the meeting on the 5 and 6 December.

The statement follows earlier announcements and the work carried out by the Board sub-groups over the past few weeks.

The commitments outlined in this statement recognise the issues raised in recent months by external commentators, through open sessions with artists and creative practitioners and also, importantly, by Creative Scotland staff.

Central to many of the concerns communicated recently to Creative Scotland has been an inconsistency in our dealings with external partners, and there is clearly a need to create a culture and ethos where trust and mutual respect can thrive.

This has meant that, despite a range of welcome and successful initiatives throughout Scotland in the first two years of operation, many important relationships have deteriorated.
The Creative Scotland Board acknowledges its own share of responsibility for this.
Both the board and the senior management team recognise the need for substantial changes which will address the principal concerns made evident in our internal reviews, extensive external feedback, and the submissions sent to us by a range of organisations and individuals, including our own staff.

We are very conscious that future success depends on us functioning as a team with shared goals, operating in an environment of mutual respect.

One cause of friction which has affected both competence and delivery has been the lack of effective use of expertise available to the organisation internally and externally.
This will change in two ways:
  • We will change Creative Scotland’s operational structure to give staff the freedom to use their specialist knowledge more effectively.
  • We will set up internal and external forums that allow artists, creative practitioners and staff to feed into policy development.
We reiterate one of our core values: that artists and creative practitioners should be at the heart of our thinking.

Changes to make the language and tone of Creative Scotland more accessible are already underway, and we accept that the nature and number of our funding streams and programmes has led to confusion.

This will also change. Work has begun on simplifying the routes through which individuals and organisations can access advice and funding.

Stability is a core concern of many companies, not least in this difficult financial climate. We intend to offer that stability in a number of key ways:
  • As soon as is practicable, we will offer long term funding to organisations over a number of years. This will be subject to a review of progress, but relieve them of the need to submit fresh applications annually.
  • We will work towards changing what has come to be viewed as a funding hierarchy. Instead we will offer the security of multi-year funding to organisations, project funding for specific time limited work, and funding to individuals which may include partnerships.
It is essential in our view that lottery funding should never be regarded as a substitute for government sourced grant in aid, but we are working on ways in which we can use both to ensure the creative community thrives.

Crucial to re-building trust and confidence in the organisation is the commitment of our staff who have been operating under the most difficult circumstances.

We greatly admire, value and respect the skills and talents of our staff and intend to create an atmosphere in which these can flourish. They will be involved at every stage of this period of essential change.

There has been good practice in many of the things Creative Scotland has achieved but that has to become the norm in all areas of activity. We recognise that imaginative and successful initiatives have been undermined by failures in other areas.

It is time that Creative Scotland stopped being the story. We think the best way to achieve this is to focus on making our core operation effective, and affording those we support due care and attention.

We will also moderate the pace of change to enable better planning and consultation internally and externally.

These changes are the product of a period of painful but essential re-examination. We are individually and collectively signed up to restoring confidence in Creative Scotland’s work.
We ask for time to be allowed to do this, and to be judged on the results of the changes announced today.

The Board of Creative Scotland

Summary of Commitments
Commitments for change agreed by the Board of Creative Scotland on 6 December 2012 and to be delivered by the Senior Management Team and staff:
  • Underlining our commitment to putting artists, creative practitioners, cultural organisations and our staff at the heart of everything we do.
  • Enabling more effective use of staff specialist knowledge and expertise, increasing autonomy of decision-making and increasing the visibility of, and access to, this expertise.
  • Creating effective regular consultative forums with artists and creative practitioners and staff to inform policy development and increase transparency. Working with the sector to design the specific nature of these forums with the aim of a first open session in early 2013.
  • Reviewing current funding models to enable as many organisations as possible and appropriate to benefit from stable, multi-year arrangements. This will include an end to the plans for ‘strategic commissioning’.
  • Changing the perceived funding hierarchy of Foundation, Flexibly Funded and Annual Organisations and creating clear funding routes for individuals and specific time limited projects.
  • Changing the content and tone of our language to increase clarity and accessibility with a re-design of our application forms, guidance and other communications.
  • Emphasising the language of “support” rather than “investment” in both our values and operations.
  • Reducing efforts on activity that could be construed as promoting Creative Scotland ahead of artists, creative practitioners or cultural organisations.  
Work on these commitments will be a collaborative process with staff, artists, creative practitioners and organisations.
We continue our commitment to supporting arts, culture and creative industries across Scotland and to increasing public engagement and participation, working in partnership with others to achieve this.

Next Steps

Some of these changes are underway, others will involve a significant level of future work. The support and active involvement of people and organisations in the arts, culture and creative industries through this period will be essential.
The following date should be noted:
  • Friday 14 December: Publication of Board sub-group reports and update on actions.
Early in 2013 we will publish more detailed plans for implementing these significant changes, including anticipated timescales. This is to allow staff and the senior management team time to consider the activity and people required to deliver the commitments being made.

The Board will also begin the process of recruiting a new Chief Executive in the New Year and interim organisational arrangements are currently being put in place.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Statement from Creative Scotland: 03/12/12

Creative Scotland today announces that Andrew Dixon has taken the decision to stand down from the post of Chief Executive at Creative Scotland and make way for a new Chief Executive to lead the organisation through an important period of change.

Sir Sandy Crombie, Chair of Creative Scotland said:

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Andrew for his stewardship of Creative Scotland since its inception. As a new organisation with an extensive remit, there have been inevitable challenges during this period and Andrew has consistently led the organisation with energy, passion and enthusiasm. He has also taken every opportunity to be a vociferous champion and advocate for Scottish arts and culture.”

Andrew Dixon, in a statement about his departure said:

“It has been a privilege to have been involved in the early years of Creative Scotland and to have worked with such talented and dedicated staff, but I now feel the time is right for a change of direction for both myself and the organisation.

“I am proud of what has been achieved since the merger. We have delivered new resources for the arts and established strong partnerships with local authorities, broadcasters and many other agencies. The Year of Creative Scotland, The Guide to Scotland’s Festivals, a new capital programme, the Creative Place Awards and the recent Luminate festival have shown the potential for all parts of Scotland to play a part in the creativity of the nation. I have been disappointed, given my track record, not to gain the respect and support of some of the more established voices in Scottish culture and I hope that my resignation will clear the way for a new phase of collaboration between artists and Creative Scotland.”

I have, however, also received much support and generosity of spirit from people in the arts and culture community across Scotland. I have been grateful for the tireless support of Fiona Hyslop and many others in Government. I would also like to thank Sir Sandy Crombie and the rest of the Board who volunteer their time and expertise so willingly. The staff team at Creative Scotland is exceptional and, despite recent strains, they continue to demonstrate professionalism and a true passion for the artistic and creative life of Scotland. I wish them all the very best.”

The Board will now begin the process of finding a new Chief Executive and setting up interim arrangements. In the immediate future, the Senior Management Team will report directly to Sir Sandy Crombie as Chair of the Board.

Andrew Dixon will leave Creative Scotland at the end of January 2013 after completing a programme of handover and transition support to the Chair and the Board.

Further information:
As detailed in previous statements, Creative Scotland is currently undertaking two internal reviews with the aim of improving its operations and relationship with artists, cultural organisations and other stakeholders.
Andrew Dixon was appointed in February 2010 as acting Director of Creative Scotland and has been full time since May 2010 overseeing the merger of Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council.
Further announcements will be made as appropriate.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Four weeks on from Tramway World Cafe

The Tramway World Cafe event on 31 October 2012 at Tramway, Glasgow was an open opportunity for artists, practitioners and people who care about the arts and cultural sector in Scotland to come together for a discussion about the future of our community in the next 10 years.

It was stimulated by the public and private discussions that have been happening about our main public funding body, Creative Scotland. It was set up to be artist and practitioner focused.

The link below is to a blog post that reflects on the Creative Scotland activity in the 4 weeks since the Tramway World Cafe event.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Labelling artists - Eleanor Turney article

Another application to fill in raises another dilemma - how do I describe what stage of my career I am at?
early career, emerging, young?

Do I want to be pigeonholed into such a category? Who is this classification useful for? What do these terms mean? How will the description affect what people think of my work and of my practice?

Eleanor Turney  writes about these topics in her article, written for the Guardian:

Young, emerging or ready? For early career artists, it's all in the labelling

The clash between creative work and bureaucracy is always going to present problems, but it's easy to see why those handing out money need systems with transparent criteria. This is a perennial issue in the arts world, and more acute now as everyone scraps for less and less money. One recent focus for argument had been schemes that support 'young' or 'emerging' talent. But are these criteria useful, and if so, for whom? And are labels that might be useful to funders and marketers also useful for the artists to whom they are applied?

Age limits pose particular problems: when Arts Council England (ACE) announced its Creative Employment Programme, led by the National Skills Academy, to support up to 6,500 new apprenticeships and paid internships, instead of universal approbation there were numerous complaints that it had an age cut-off (24 years old).

For myriad reasons (family pressure, the need to pay the rent, changing interests) many people don't get their first job in the arts until they're older. They are then competing with younger graduates and those who can afford to take up internships, but are ineligible for some streams of support, including ACE's Creative Employment Programme and some of the opportunities offered by another big supporter of young people in the arts, IdeasTap. So is this unfair?

Peter de Haan, chairman of IdeasTap spells it out clearly enough: "If you look at the unemployment stats, it's clearly young people, especially aged 16-25, who are in the most need of support. My experience as a philanthropist has taught me that if you want to make a real difference you need to focus that support."

Stephen Fewell, chair of JMK Trust (which bestows the £25,000 JMK Young Directors' Award, available to under-30s) also says: "In the current financial climate, looking at the employment prospects for young people leaving education, I lose no sleep over youth being an appropriate criterion for support."

However, de Haan explains that although IdeasTap initially focused on 16-25 year-olds, "we saw a big increase in members aged 25-30 who needed support to kick off their careers". John Garfield-Roberts, an actor/director, worries that graduates of schemes for young artists find themselves "at the bottom of a very big pile, with little or no support to guide them through the next stage of their career".

Since those starting out can be of any age, maybe it makes sense to replace 'young' with 'emerging' – there are a number of schemes run by ACE alone that cater to emerging talent, including the Artists International Development Fund, Music Industry Talent Development Fund (which will announce its first recipients in early 2013), and, of course, Grants for the Arts.

Unfortunately, 'emerging' is even more nebulous a term than 'young', which can be confirmed by a date of birth on an application form. It means different things in different artforms and to different funding bodies. Old Vic New Voices artistic director Steve Winter explains that they "prefer to use the term 'emerging' because the connection between the artists we work with is the stage they are at in their careers within this industry, rather than their age".

Freelance journalist and theatre critic Andrew Haydon says, half-jokingly, that "the definition of 'emerging' is anyone who still has to apply for funding themselves," which applies to individual artists and to those organisations or companies that have not achieved regular funding. Becoming an NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) is not, of course, the only definition of success, but it does suggest a recognition that your work is ready for an audience. Jake Orr, artistic director of A Younger Theatre, is more equivocal: "Emerging can be anyone, but is currently thought to be young, and this is something that needs to shift. They're two very different ideas that need to be kept separate."

Even ACE does not have a singular definition of 'emerging'. However, the commonalities are that "the artist will have reached a critical moment in their career development, and will require a particular kind of support in order to maximise their potential and to propel them into the next phase of their development." ACE gives the following examples of what might define an emerging artist: recently being taken on by an agent, label, publisher, dealer or offered development opportunities by an NPO or sector agency; beginning to perform or have work performed or exhibited professionally; working in entry level roles in museums or galleries.

The labels 'young' and 'emerging' can also be problematic for artists themselves. 'Young' emphasises our fetishisation of youth and precocity. Calling someone 'emerging' suggests something unformed – something in-process but not yet producing work to which we should be paying attention. It highlights inexperience. Freelance producer Rowan Rutter makes sense when she says that "the word I personally use is 'ready' – am I READY for this project, for this responsibility, for this story, for these artists, for this money?"

Other people don't like either terms, especially from a marketing point of view. Tim Wood, communications manager of The Place explains: "Almost all the work we promote is by young and/or emerging artists. But these are utterly unhelpful labels for audiences. Arts marketing seems to be fighting a losing battle against vaguely applied adjectives."
John Garfield-Roberts agrees: "Tags and labels have always been dangerous. Perfect for box ticking and graphs but they provide very little actual life value." One tweeter suggested that 'emerging' begs to be followed with 'turd' – they would prefer 'early career'. Again, this can be problematic because it suggests that careers are linear and that everyone who wants to work in the arts wants to make it their career.

Ultimately, let's hope that the people with the money (funders or audiences) are intelligent and clued-up enough to make decisions about the kind of work they want to support, regardless of the age or career stage of the artist. These terms can be helpful in some ways, but what we should really care about is the quality of the work. As Rutter says: "Every time I hear 'emerging' I think about an ugly caterpillar-butterfly scenario. And let's face it, there are plenty of 'emerged' caterpillars in this business."

Eleanor Turney is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter, currently working part-time for the Poetry Society – follow her on Twitter @eleanorturney