On Saturday May 12th, the supernal Collins Gallery closed its doors for the last time. Established in 1973 and located in the University of Strathclyde’s campus in Glasgow City Centre, the Collins hosted exhibitions of craft and visual art from Britain and beyond, and over the past eighteen months it became a key partner and friend for Craft Scotland. Textiles, ceramics, furniture, basketry, glass, papermaking and metalwork are just some of the many craft forms to have been included in the often ground-breaking programme of exhibitions. My personal reaction at seeing a Collins Gallery exhibition was always one of excitement and delight.
Laura Hamilton, Director of the gallery for the past 25 years, created a venue with audience development at its heart. No matter what the subject, I always felt at home there and I always left the venue feeling simultaneously inspired and informed. Laura’s curatorial vision, accessible narration for visitors and events programme created an environment perfectly honed for developing new audiences for craft. This was coupled with the fact that, as a visitor, you were always made to feel welcome (the seats to plonk yourself down in front of a video accompanying the exhibition, an area to browse cards and magazines, the coffee pot which kept me going during my longer trips to the gallery) in the way you would be at an old friend’s house.
This is exactly what the Collins Gallery became to Craft Scotland. Following an initial conversation with Laura in New York during the Scottish Arts Council’s curatorial trip I knew Craft Scotland and the Collins would work well together. Over the course of the past eighteen months I have spoken at the symposium to accompany the John Makepeace: Enriching the Language of Furniture exhibition and Rebecca presented at the event to coincide with Jeanette Sendler’s Cutting Through Time exhibition. Craft Scotland and the Collins Gallery also worked in partnership to produce Unite, an exhibition and makers day which inspired our first conference, Craft Connected, which was also held in partnership with the venue. I am certain that if the venue remained open we would have continued this partnership for many years to come. We wish Laura and her team every success for the future.
Last week the Craft Scotland team bid the fondest of farewells to Rebecca Davis. Rebecca joined Craft Scotland two years ago as Audience Development Officer and in that time has instigated partnerships with organisations such as Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, introduced Craft Scotland to a whole new world of grassroots connections across Scotland, created routes in to developing new audiences including people aged 50+, visually impaired people and people currently disengaged with craft, and has shown an unprecedented ability for drinking herbal tea.
The Audience Development Officer position was borne out of Scottish Arts Council-led consultation with makers, which was conducted in 2007 and which highlighted the need for Craft Scotland to focus on audience development. Rebecca has created a foundation from which to build on and we remain committed to developing this area of our work. We are currently going through a funding review and will be assessing how best to continue grassroots audience development once this process has been completed. On behalf of everyone at Craft Scotland, I wish Rebecca every success and happiness in her new role at Puppet Animation Scotland.
Finally, Maria Cadenas is leaving us next week after completing a six-month research placement with us. Maria’s work, funded by the Leonardo Da Vinci programme, has focused on an in-depth analysis of the seventeen regions of mainland Spain, the Balearics and the Canary Islands, and the craft infrastructure there. The analysis allows us to compare Scottish craft to a European neighbour, whilst highlighting opportunities for Scottish and Spanish craft to work together. Once again, everyone at Craft Scotland wishes her every success and happiness as she pursues many adventures over the coming months, including volunteering in Peru over the Summer.
As we also say goodbye to Spring, my focus returns to our strategic plan as we begin to look towards 2013 and beyond. As ever I am keen to hear feedback, ideas and thoughts for the future so please do add comments below.
Emma Walker, Chief Executive, Craft Scotland
The last exhibition at the Collins was George Wyllie: A Life Less Ordinary, showcasing the legacy of work that George Wyllie gave to the gallery. His death, on 15th May 2012, came only two months after he attended a preview event at the Collins for the exhibition which marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of his work. Watch a film from the exhibition below or on YouTube:
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