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Scottish Contemporary Art Network appoints Sarah Munro as new Chair amid uncertain and challenging times for the contemporary visual arts sector in Scotland
Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) announced today that Sarah Munro, currently Director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead has been appointed Chair of their Board. The contemporary art sector in Scotland faces mounting financial challenges and is still reeling from the devastating loss of two highly regarded exhibition spaces – Inverleith House and Glasgow Sculpture Studios.
As Scotland approaches what is now known as ‘the fiscal cliff’, it is essential that the cultural sector works with senior representatives at Government and Local Authorities to maintain a strong vision for culture even in these difficult times. Only 0.2% of the Scottish Government budget is given directly to Creative Scotland as Grant in Aid. If ‘ring fenced’ funds for the National Performing Companies and the Museum sector are included, the figure reaches around 0.5%. However, culture is not a protected expenditure and does not have its own outcome within the National Performance Framework, even though cultural activity feeds into almost all other areas of public policy. Local authorities across Scotland have been cutting their arts expenditure year on year and art organisations are also dealing with other Brexit related financial pressures including the fall of the pound, and a predicted reduction in investment from commercial sponsorship and trusts.
Publicly funded arts organisations contribute to the vibrancy of our culture. They provide vital spaces for innovation and the development of new approaches to making art, they support artists to develop their practice and careers and they develop new audiences for art and culture here in Scotland and further afield. They provide rich and meaningful experiences for gallery goers and participants from all walks of life through workshops and events. Artists and cultural producers work in variety of settings with community groups, the health sector, tourism and regeneration initiatives to name only a few.
Galleries and arts organisations play a fundamental role in building cultural capacity and they connect and contribute to wider networks including; local, national and international education, higher education, festivals, biennales and artist-run initiatives.
However as the recently published Creative Scotland Visual Arts Sector Review shows, despite wide and meaningful public impact alongside high levels of excellence, the sector is financially fragile.
Further cuts to public funding for the arts will mean that some of our key organisations may fold; and once they are gone, they are gone. There are no safety nets for non-commercial contemporary art organisations. Once organisations close and artists leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere it will be very difficult to rebuild this collegiate network of artists, curators, cultural producers and organisations.
We are lucky that the Scottish Government supports and understands the intrinsic role of the arts, but the fragility of the contemporary art sector must be urgently acknowledged.
We have something special here in Scotland; a strong history of supporting and developing artists, a rich diversity of artistic practice and a healthy range of different types of contemporary art organisations providing opportunities for artists at most stages of their careers. However, incremental gallery closures will soon devastate this vibrant aspect of the wider arts and cultural sector.
SCAN is committed to championing the vital role contemporary art plays in our cultural landscape and across wider society. We are delighted to have Sarah Munro on board as we work with our members, Creative Scotland and the others in the sector to protect, nurture and grow the public impact of the contemporary visual arts sector in Scotland.
Sarah Munro is currently the Director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (the largest contemporary art organisation in the UK), and has over 20 years’ experience of cultural leadership following a distinguished career in Scotland. As Head of Arts for Glasgow Life from 2012 to 2015, Munro was responsible for venues and festivals including; Tramway, Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, the Gallery of Modern Art’s temporary exhibitions programme and the Merchant City Festival. This followed on from her role as Artistic Director of Tramway which she took up in 2008 leading on the revitalisation of the center’s public programming including visual arts and dance. Sarah also led on the successful bid to bring the Turner Prize to Scotland for the first time in 2015. Prior to this Munro was Director of the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh from 1998 to 2008.
As Chair of SCAN, Munro will work with the board, SCAN Director Seonaid Daly and SCAN staff to develop the strategy and objectives of the network as it works collectively to address our sectors’ most urgent challenges.
Speaking of her new appointment Munro noted: “I am absolutely delighted to take up the role of Chair of SCAN at this challenging time. I have spent over 20 years working in the visual arts sector in Scotland and remain passionate about its vitality and future. I am deeply supportive of SCAN’s mission to stand up and provide a strong, clear and united voice for the sector – a voice that must be heard not just in reaction to cuts, but to ensure the long term viability of the visual arts in Scotland as we rise to the challenges ahead.”
Director of SCAN Seonaid Daly commented: “I’m really pleased that Sarah has joined the team at SCAN. She is highly regarded here in Scotland but also internationally for her knowledge, commitment and passion for contemporary art. With her support and strategic oversight SCAN will work tirelessly to champion our members and the wider contemporary visual arts sector in these difficult times.”
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Scottish Contemporary Art Network is a member led network committed to championing and supporting the contemporary art sector in Scotland. SCAN is supported by Creative Scotland.