It is the duty of an artist to make people think about things they’ve never considered, see things they’ve never realized before and tap into emotions foreign to them. Viewers of art should not be limited to those who have the funds to purchase a museum pass or the time to go on gallery strolls. Art should be everywhere and accessible to everyone. Interactive projects, though extremely challenging, energy draining and sometimes very expensive allow a level of participation from the viewer that invests them in the process and brings art to those who never consider themselves creative. Interactive projects also can function as works of social justice or gestures of simple human kindness so necessary but often elusive in society.
Paying it back, paying it forward
What can I wish you?
Out of the ashes, into the world
Turning tragedy into philanthropy
The idea of interviewing artists in their studios is an effort to satisfy my curiosity of artists as people at work, and the environments that they have created for themselves to carry out their work. Are artists intrinsically different from everyone else or is their chosen career path and work ethic no different that that of an office worker, executive or manual laborer? Do they create an environment conducive to the creation of their work or adapt themselves to the spaces they find themselves in through opportunity or economics? How did they come to be artists? Is there a bit of an artist in everyone that can be revealed through nurturing or education or are they born with a special gift apart from the average person? Do they think differently and look at the world differently than everyone else? What are their career goals? Who nurtured them on their way? In September 2005 I traveled to Scotland and it was there that I sought the answers to my questions. Scotland proved to be an excellent location for this project. It was not terribly far away, I did not have to worry about a language barrier, it is a country that can be toured quickly and easily and best of all Scotland has a national organization that provides artists with subsidized studio spaces in large buildings. All of these factors provided me with the opportunity to interview eleven artists in their studios as well as two visiting artists in temporary studios at an artist retreat. I interviewed artists in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh at their Wasps studios and two visiting artists at a retreat in Arbroath. Workshop and Artist Studio Provisions Scotland, or “Wasps” is a not for profit charity for working artists throughout Scotland. It was created in the 1970’s to curtail the displacement of artists from the studios they created in derelict or abandoned factory buildings by gentrification. It was realized that artists attract interest in a neighborhood and they should remain as a cultural anchor in the communities. Yet most working artists in Scotland do not earn enough annually to pay market rent for studio space. Wasps rents or buys properties for artist studios, renovates them and rents them to artists at an affordable price. I found this system to be a refreshing contrast to what I have encountered in the Soho area of New York City that has evolved from an artist enclave and cultural center into a shopping district. The three Wasps locations I visited followed a common program. All had studios of varying sizes. Some of these studios were private, some shared, some large for group use, like ceramics and glass studios. All Wasps locations had common areas accessible to all artists: areas to hang work for discussion or informal review, small kitchens, bathrooms and in the cases of Glasgow and Edinburgh, gallery space for exhibitions. Individual spaces are rented to artists after an application process. An artist is allowed to modify the interior of their space to suit their needs. The envelope of the space cannot be penetrated or altered in a permanent way. Many artists I visited had loft or mezzanine structures within their studios, but these could be easily removed without disturbance of the infrastructure. In the Glasgow and Edinburgh Wasps buildings, raceways were installed along the ceilings to facilitate electrical or sanitary upgrades without major disruption to the building’s common areas. The core facilities provided by Wasps in each location were well planned and impressive in their attention to detail. I am most grateful to all the artists who participated. In particular I am most grateful to Bill McCreath and Gregor White, the catalysts for the Scotland trip, Chris Biddlecombe who spent so much time with me discussing Wasps, loft conversions for artist use, and for arranging the Glasgow and Edinbugh tours. Special thanks also go to the intrepid Malcolm Thomson who gamely took me to Dundee and rounded up artists for interview at Meadow Mill. I also thank Willie Payne, the director of Hospitalfield for maintaining such a wonderful artists retreat as Hospitalfield House, which I am sure is no small feat. I posed the same eight questions to each artist: 1. When and how did you come to accept that you were an artist? 2. Who(and what)influenced you and your art? 3. Do you have a preferred medium/process? 4. Describe a typical day in your studio and your work patterns; 5. Tell us briefly about your career; 6. In designing your studio, what were your key concerns, i.e. type of lighting, ventilation, ceiling height, live load of floors, location, environmental safety, width of doors, etc? 7. If you could have your dream studio, what might it be like? 8. If you could choose to have your work in any permanent public collection, which three collections would be your top choices? I also asked them for any promotional information, or recent exhibition catalogues for archival purposes. The results ranged from CD’s, website addresses, show announcements to business cards. I was even treated to a DVD show of two public installations. In addition to these materials, I photographed and sketched each studio to give a sense of the layout and ambience.