Arts and Culture Review

/ Nicola Walls / Arts & Culture

It is remarkable in reviewing our Arts and Culture projects how many are related to existing buildings rather than new settings. Perhaps we should not be surprised as more than most, our experience of the arts stands on the shoulders of the art which has gone before.

At its simplest, most arts organisations or initiatives occupy existing spaces as their home, venue, shelter or platform. The cost of building new or spending a lot of time thinking what space to build from scratch would be too time consuming when the art should be the focus. The easier way is to find the space, and often it is the neglected, battered and redundant buildings that stand out, perhaps because they are too challenging for normal commercial processes of repair and re-use. The challenge then is how to adapt these spaces. All space carries the baggage of its making, funding, uses and people who needed it. The skill is how we adapt this legacy to our contemporary need.

Lifting the bar of difficulty even higher is that arts organisations have a complex range of briefing needs in re-using these buildings. They need to support space to accommodate, organise, think, produce, show, display and sell. When you stand back from it there are few building types that need their buildings to perform so many functions - to house the art group, allow it to work but also to extend its welcome to the outside, and draw people in, and then once in inform, sell, reveal and stimulate.

Perhaps the most interesting development here is the recognition that the servicing and the consumption of art is being extended to the servicing and consumption of the production of art. Rather than see the work as an end, see it as a means to an end. At the Edinburgh Printmakers and at the Glasgow School of Art the idea of viewing production - seeing the working - offers new and fascinating insights into how the settings for the arts are imagined.

Edinburgh Printmakers Studio