THE NEW director of the Scottish Contemporary Art Network has warned about the fragile state of the arts which can help the nation recover from the coronavirus pandemic as the group calls for much needed support.

Moira Jeffrey who has more than 20 years of experience of the visual arts in Scotland including roles in arts journalism where she wrote regularly for The Herald, says there remains concerns many artists are still "falling through the net of support".

And she stressed the importance of the arts in helping the general public come to terms with what is happening around them.

SCAN has been concerned that Scotland's hallowed visual art scene - which covers everything from galleries, studios, art centres and associated festivals to artists, sculptors and photographers - was being being put "at risk" without necessary emergency funding.

The not-for-profit charitable organisation is trying to save those working in the visual arts in Scotland which produced the 2018 Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger.

A selection of celebrated and award winning artists in Scotland including Jacqeline Donachie, Nathan Coley, Alberta Whittle and 2014 Turner Prize winner Duncan Campbell have joined calls from SCAN for a dedicated fund for the visual arts to stabilise the sector and prevent insolvencies.

And Ms Jeffrey (below) said she remained concerned about the outlook for the visual arts as Scotland entered a second Covid-19 lockdown.


"We are concerned that many artists are still falling through the net of support and are working closely with our colleagues at Scottish Artists Union," she said.

"We know that the current, and obviously highly necessary measures for public health, are once more impacting on our public-facing venues."

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Fears for long-term future of Scotland's visual arts

She said representations will be being made to MSPs at the end of the month over the current position facing visual arts on what she described as "this challenging picture".

Ms Jeffrey added: "This role comes at a time when we are all dealing with the challenges of a new lockdown and the cultural sector faces ongoing fragility. Scotland’s artists have shown amazing ingenuity and dedication in the face of the pandemic. Our visual arts organisations and cultural venues have continued to serve their communities in innovative ways and support artistic activity right across Scotland.  

"We know that cultural voices, cultural spaces, and cultural opportunities can be central to a fair, inclusive, and sustainable national recovery. The SCAN team will continue to do all that we can to ensure that Scotland’s contemporary art community is heard, supported and allowed to flourish.

"This week Professor Devi Sridhar, reminded us that as we come out of lockdown, 'arts and humanities will be vital'. Culture can provide us with space to think and a place to learn as well as those shared pleasures. I find that artists often reveal what is overlooked or unspoken, or help drive new thinking. Those perspectives, on equalities, sustainability and better ways to be in the world that could really help us at this time.

"SCAN members have worked so hard to ensure that despite the challenges, we can still take part, from Alchemy Arts in Hawick who ran an online film festival on domestic broadband right at the start of the pandemic when most of us could hardly use Zoom, to new film commissions, being shared online right now by Collective in Edinburgh.


Clare Harris, outgoing director, Clare Harris of SCAN at the 2019 launch of a major art campaign. She is photographed here in front of an artwork by Frank McElhinney in a group exhibition called 'Timefield' at Platform

"In Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh artist Emmie McLuskey will be working with Atlas Arts and local young people, testing ideas to imagine different futures for their communities."

A SCAN survey in May warned the visual art scene was "at risk" with seven in ten organisations saying it has meant or likely to mean the cancellation of programmes and projects.

Scotland's contemporary visual arts sector has already come under pressure from cuts in local authority funding and the constant, tightening squeeze on state arts funding.

In 2019, it launched a new campaign, Art in Action, to “sharpen the minds” of every MSP in the Scottish Parliament about the issues facing visual artists across the country, as well as celebrate their ongoing contribution to wider society.

The First Minister visited Studio Pavilion at House for an Art Lover during that campaign and posed for pictures holding a sign saying "I've Seen Art In Action".

Announcing the appointment, Veronique AA Lapeyre, SCAN's board chairman said: “We are delighted that Moira is taking up the helm of SCAN. She is an experienced leader and a real champion for the visual arts ecosystem. Moira will bring a wealth of cross-sector experience to this leading role at a crucial time. The Board and team look forward to working with her as the organisation continues to build on our programming and advocate on the pressing issues facing our members and community to policy makers, funders and government.” 

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The arts sector is vitally important to all of our lives in Scotland, at this time more than ever, and we do not underestimate the devastating impact this pandemic has had on the sector.

“We have provided £8 million through Creative Scotland to support freelance and self-employed people in the creative sector, including artists.  We know that those who work on a freelance or self-employed basis have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic, and this funding has provided much needed support.

“We have also published guidance to enable safe working in creative studios, which has helped many artists to continue to work. 

“In the very earliest days of the pandemic the Scottish Government honoured funding commitments for Scotland’s cultural organisations, regardless of whether activity had to be cancelled, reduced or rescheduled, and we repurposed regular funding to help with the COVID-19 response.

“The Scottish Government has now allocated more than £120 million of additional funding to support culture and heritage since the start of the pandemic. Financial support and grants continue to be distributed to arts organisations and individuals within the sector through Creative Scotland.”