It's Sunday morning and despite having been on gazillions of Zoom calls over the last 18 months, I begin my conversation with artists Chao-Ying Rao (aka Betty) and Robert McCormack on mute. The story of many lives in the last year…

After a few minutes of apologies and mutual introductions. Me: your Herald Magazine art person and Betty/Robert: 2020 graduates of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), we career off in a host of directions. Appropriate, given we have convened at an ungodly hour to discuss the pair's latest project, Graduate Drive Thru.

Billed on its Eventbrite page as a MAGICAL, FABULOUS, S E X X X Y ART SHOW, the open air Drive Thru can be visited on the rooftop of an NCP car park on Glassford Street until it ends on Monday night.

With fine 360 degree views across the city of Glasgow, the space is, Betty laughs, a showcase for 24 "submerging artists", all of whom graduated across multiple art disciplines in 2020 without a degree show.

As a graduate from GSA in Painting and Printmaking who also boasts a degree in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, Betty revels in the quirks of language. To that end, she and Robert have been working for months on a series of posters influenced by roadside signs to promote the project, which is part of the much bigger DIY, non-profit making Glasgow Open House Arts Festival (GOHAF).

The submerging artists idea ("a play on the idea of us as emerging artists, which is one of these very specific art world phrases") is made into a visual cue by yellow poster depicting a car falling into the water.

So what's actually going to be happening at the Drive Thru this weekend, I ask? "We don't know," Betty exclaims. "It will unravel as the weekend goes on…"

One thing is sure, the emerging/submerging cohort of 2020 graduates up on the NCP rooftop, are living proof that resilience is a key quality in any creative life.

Glasgow Open House Arts Festival, which returns to the city this weekend after a four-year hiatus was originally set up in 2013 by GSA graduates frustrated with the lack of opportunities available to them after their spell at art school ended.

Three editions of the festival followed, but by 2017 and a victim of its own success, it had grown too unwieldy for the voluntary committee and it disbanded.

In the last year, artist and GSA graduate, Amalie Silvani-Jones, who was involved with GOHAF from the beginning, began to think that the original "artists doing it for themselves" aims of the festival fitted perfectly with the lockdown approach of art in windows and gigs on balconies.

"I had a baby in 2015 followed by twins," Amalie tells me. "So my time to volunteer as an organiser was severely limited. But last year, with my partner furloughed from his job and freed up to look after the kids, I began to think that maybe the time was right to revive Open House.

"I felt a real need to harness the positive creative energy of lockdown."

Amalie duly put a proposal together and received funding from Creative Scotland and the Hope Scott Trust, which promotes music and the visual arts in Scotland. The die was cast for a four-day socially distanced festival with the appropriate theme of Artists in Isolation.

This weekend, the festival is showing the work of more than 125 artists, with in excess of 60 projects happening online at more than 40 outdoor locations.

In keeping with what is definitely a mood of the times, artists are welcoming friends, neighbours and strangers alike into front and back gardens, community gardens and other outdoor spaces – offering hospitality and sharing their art, music, performances and stories.

As well as the Graduate Drive Thru, which has been supported financially and in-kind by alma mater, GSA, here are my highlights:

Online: Four free arts and craft activities:

Families and members of the public are being encouraged to join the festival programme by displaying artistic creations in a window or front garden. Free guidance available online. There is the option to buy two types of Window Art Activity Box for £10, containing materials and guidance needed to carry out one of the activities at home. Proceeds will go towards donating the same art boxes to the communities supported by Refuweegee.

Upcycled Fused Plastic Lanterns with Giacinta Frisillo

Window Box Paper Craft with Alice Dansey-Wright

Milk Bottle Moths with The Art & Energy Collective (Moths to a Flame Project)

Stained Glass Window Painting with Amalie Silvani-Jones

Venue 27, The Hidden Gardens, Tramway, Albert Drive, Glasgow, G41 2PE

Fledgling: Julia Hegele

The building of a human-sized nest tucked into a precious corner of green space ties together a legacy of home-building, comfort-seeking, and welcoming the inevitability of Glaswegian rain.

Today, from 10.15am to 2pm

Venue 8, Domestic Window: 212 West Princes Street, G4 9DL

Recovering Woodlands: Janie Nicol

Two displays, one in the front window of the artist's flat in West Princes Street, and another at Woodlands Workspace which "talk to each other” and aim to explore how the community of Woodlands has coped with the pandemic.

Until Monday.

Venue 38, Window, Bees Knees Cafe, G42 8LF

Lockdown Postcards by Project Ability. Work by Tommy Mason, Doreen Kay, Edward Henry, Kelly Bowes, Cameron Morgan and more.

A showcase of small scale drawings and paintings made by Project Ability artists throughout the pandemic. Project Ability is a visual arts charity who create opportunities for people with disabilities and people with lived experience of mental ill-health.

Until Monday.

Venue 7, Public Space, under rail bridge, Ferry Road, G3 8QX

The Verge by Mary Redmond

The Verge project has revived a derelict space and is now a brownfield garden and public/performance art site, which is also highly beneficial for insects and pollinators creating a little ecosystem full of life, while providing an essential link in a chain of pollinator sites.

Until Monday.

Four Locations, Cycle Event: Starting near Kelvinbridge

Bike + Talk with Ellie Harrison

Join artist Ellie Harrison for a leisurely cycle around town, taking in her four Early Warning Signs sited at various venues across the city especially for the festival; including Impact Arts in the East End and three more in the West End and the South Side.

From 1 - 3pm today only.

Glasgow Open House Arts Festival, at 42 venues throughout Glasgow and 20 online spaces until Monday September 27,


Critic's Choice

David Mach's huge Big Heids sculpture, by the side of the M8 at Holytown, Lanarkshire, must be one of the best viewed artworks in Scotland.

But the Fife-born artist, who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1988, is not one to be pigeon-holed into working in just one medium. Mach works across a host of media, including – most recently – music and writing.

Mach, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, a Royal Academician and now Professor of Inspiration and Discovery at Dundee University, is one of the UK’s most successful and prolific artists. He has long held a fascination with collage and for Heaven & Hell, which opens at the RGI Kelly Gallery in Glasgow today, he showcases 11 large scale collages. Each one depicts various scenes from Mach's idea of heaven and hell and to illustrate this, he features various landmarks across the world. Glasgow features heavily and locations he has transposed into a heavenly/hellish setting include; The Riverside Museum and The Glasgow Science Centre.

In one of the works, Weegie Well, the Waverley, the world's last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer, has been transposed to a tropical paradise complete with smiling and nubile bathing beauties in the foreground and the Science Centre and other Clydeside skyline buildings in the background.

Hell Paris shows the burning lower reaches of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Suffice to say, this disturbing montage isn't the Insta-friendly view you will see on a social media platform

near you.

In Heaven Pittsburg, we see the city viewed from a picture-postcard friendly park in full-on fall mode. The scene is autumnal but there's an air of menace.

Saturated colour and smiling faces in all these artworks conceal a dark underbelly which leads this viewer at any rate to conclude that we are all heading to the fiery place in a handcart.

Heaven & Hell: David Mach RA, RGI Kelly Gallery, 118 Douglas Street, Glasgow G2 4ET, 0141 258 1080,, Tuesday - Saturday 10-5pm, until October 16. Free

Don't Miss

Nicola Atkinson's Portable Retrospective book, which launched last week, is a great example of keeping on keeping in the face of adversity. This beautiful book doubles up as both virtual gallery and retrospective of Nicola Atkinson’s career, featuring 125 projects from 1981 to the present. An art exhibition in your hands which continues the theme of reimagining spaces for art.

Portable Retrospective, Beautiful Materials Publishing,, £20

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