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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Artists Doing It For Themselves

We are living in lean times. Every week, you hear stories of galleries which are closing down. Just last week Glasgow gallery owner Sorcha Dallas announced she was having to close her gallery in Glasgow's Merchant City

Sorcha will still be working in the arts and will be keeping up her fantastic connection with the legend is Alasdair Gray, as well as various other projects.

Her gallery was lucky enough to receive Creative Scotland funding in the past but most galleries and artists don't receive a penny of such funding and rely on their wits (and innate natural talent of course!) to get by.

I've just received an email from the artist Shona Barr, who works out of Wasps studios in Dennistoun, Glasgow. Wasps, which is a charitable organisation providing studio space for creatives, has also suffered severe funding cuts in the last year. 

My inbox runneth over with emails from artists about this event, which is also a sign of the times.

Shona sent the information which follows after this about the Wasps Open Studios event next weekend with particular reference to Hanson Street.

Here's Shona's website: http://www.shonabarr.com. She has a beautifully expansive way with colour and her brush strokes sweep you away to another, more vibrant, place.

Occasionally I have meetings in Hanson Street. I like spending a few hours there as there's always people around and interesting things on the go.

There's a fab cafe in the foyer, Cafe Sejuiced. Great soup and sandwiches. They do a good scone too...

You might even spot artist and one-man whirlwind Frank To in there on his laptop... or artist Joe Hendry, a dab hand on the tarot cards, I believe...

Personally, I like a nosy in Mark Greer's framing business, Art Hire, because he frames for some of the best artists in Scotland and he always has something interesting on the go.

I could go on. One of my favourite painters, Alasdair Wallace, is based there and the card on his door is not to be taken seriously...

Joe Hendry paints a pen picture of Hanson Street on a normal weekend here:

Artist Linda O'Grady at work in her studio in Wasps, Dennistoun

Gust blog by Shona Barr

With news coverage filled with the impending return of recession, life doesn't seem to be getting any easier in the world of arts and crafts.

The events of the past few years have brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'struggling artist'. 

So, undeterred, the tenants of Wasps Artists' Studios are preparing for their annual Open Studio event over the weekend of October 1/2. 

Traditionally held in the first weekend in October, Open Studios takes place in the various Wasps buildings around Scotland and gives the general public a rare glimpse into the working environment of some of Scotland's most prominent artists. 

One of the main centres for this event is the Hanson Street building at the far end of Alexandra Parade.

Artist Gillian Orr has worked on various projects around the city and was involved with organising the Art in the Park events for the Southside festival. Once again she is the coordinator for the Hanson Street building Open Studios. 

"This is the umpteenth year I've been rep for Open Studios," she says. "A glutton for punishment some would say but I think it's important to give artists as many opportunities as possible, especially in the current climate.

A lot of the galleries simply aren't shifting the work at the moment so it's up to us to come up with alternative ways to get our work out there." The Hanson Street building is host to a huge variety of different skills and disciplines over its three floors. 

From painting to glass art, textiles to ceramics, film and photography through to illustration and jewellery. 

Sculptor Noel McKenna's work takes a whole new slant on the Tollbooth and other famous Glasgow landmarks which inspire his work. He is a winner of the A4A Foundry Prize at the 149th Annual RGI show. 

Noel McKenna at a previous Open Studios event

Besides her art, Laura Donnelly also has a successful film and television career working in Production Design. Among her credits was the TV adaptation of Crow Road which featured Peter Capaldi and Bill Paterson. "One of the things about Scotland," says Laura. "Is that we have a great breadth of talent for such a small country and the Arts is one of the main area that helps Scotland punch above its weight."

The Wasp's Dennistoun site is on part of what used to be the old recreation ground, a venue for Dennistoun Cricket Club.

The area was redeveloped with the arrival of the tobacco industry with Wasps eventually developing the site known as the John Player Building in the late 1980s. 

One of the first artists to move into the site was painter Jeff McDonald and he remembers how grim those early days were. "As studio rep part of my duties was to empty buckets of dirty water that leaked through the roof at various points - I could never work out how this would continue even when we had dry weather, we often had 3-5 gallons in the middle of dry summers! Since then the building has been extensively redeveloped and we had our first Open Studio's back in 2003 and it has since developed into one of the major events in the art calendar."

A more recent arrival to the building is Linda O'Grady. A painter who uses the world of cabaret and portraiture as her subject matter and who is attracted to the stage as subject matter, especially the world of burlesque. 

Her portraits have included figures such as Tommy Sheridan and Tony Hart. "I am proud to have painted the portraits of such iconic figures particularly Tony Hart. How many people working in the arts today were first introduced to it through his TV programmes? It was sad also in his last years when a series of strokes robbed him of his ability to draw. I suppose that shows you should make the most of what you have while you have it."

Of course as a result of the downturn, arts funding has seen some extensive cuts and Wasps studios which before had relied on revenue and capital grants Glasgow City Council and the old Scottish Arts Council is now roughly 80% self sufficient. 

Proposals by the new body Creative Scotland which involve removing the Flexible Funding Scheme are giving some bodies such as the Transmission Gallery and the CCA cause for concern. 

"I suppose it seems like the easy thing to cut with all the pressure on public spending," observes Gillian Orr. 

"But the arts bring a lot of money into the economy. We are culturally rich in this country and people do come to Scotland to view art, buy local crafts and experience our culture. I believe we as artists have a responsibility to ensure this interest is met and by welcoming the public into our working environment provides a great opportunity to talk to artists, and buy directly from them."

WASPS Artists’ Open Studios Weekend
www.waspstudios.org.uk and www.facebook.com/waspstudios
Saturday October 1, 11am-5pm & Sunday October 2, 12pm-5pm

The Wasps Factory

77 Hanson Street
G31 2HF

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