Scanning the year 2021

We’re here to support contemporary art.  

We know that artists’ voices, art spaces, and artistic opportunities can help us find our way through challenging times. 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.

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 work with their communities in innovative ways and support artistic activity right across Scotland. 

As we enter a new year, we’d love to welcome more of you among our growing community. Find out how to join us here. 

Installation view of The Outside in Inside Everything we Make at Kendall Koppe Gallery for Glasgow International 2021Installation view of The Outside is Inside Everything we Make, an exhibition by Laura Aldridge, Leanne Ross and Judith Scott at Kendall Koppe Gallery for Glasgow International 2021, featured in our #ArtUnlocks Wellbeing article.

We’ve kept our members connected in a challenging year 

We aim to connect, champion and cultivate Scotland’s contemporary art community. With more than 300 named members across 26 of Scotland’s local authority areas, SCAN’s network can be found at the heart of communities from Shetland to the Scottish Borders and from East Lothian to the Western Isles. SCAN members include Scotland’s leading galleries, artists’ studios, workshops and production facilities and a highly skilled workforce of artists, art workers and creative thinkers.  

Sharing members amazing work, opportunities and our campaigns for the visual arts are at the heart of what we do. In 2021, we grew our reach across the main social media platforms, with more than 24k followers. We reached 10.6 million social media accounts and had 62 thousand interactions with our #ArtUnlocks campaign as visual arts re-opened after lockdown in the spring. Since November, our #UnwrapArt campaign has reached 1.3 million social media accounts, with 5 thousand interactions and 4.4 thousand likes.

We amplified our members voices with regular newsletters to our 2000-strong mailing list, as well as targeted advocacy and policy updates for our members, and we sent bulletins to MSPs sharing the work the arts community does in their constituencies. 

This year we reached members through online meetings and face to face visits where restrictions allowed. Events included introducing our new director Moira Jeffrey, launching our working from home charter and supporting members with advice and range of events on issues like digital art practice, care riders for artists, ethical fundraising and engaging creatively with climate crisis. 

Patrick Harvie MSP visits Rumpus Room in GlasgowPatrick Harvie MSP visits Rumpus Room in Govanhill, Glasgow as part of our #ArtUnlocks campaign

We championed visual art to the public and policymakers 

We’re here to shout about the great work of our members and to support them through policy challenges and opportunities. In January, during lockdown, we fought on behalf of individual artists, who were struggling in the pandemic. We worked with our partners at Scottish Artists Union on a major survey of the visual arts workforce. Our director Moira Jeffrey gave evidence to a committee of the Scottish Parliament and we launched a press and digital campaign for more support for individual artists. In February the Scottish Government announced a new round of support for artists and creative freelancers. 

In April, we launched a new advocacy campaign ArtUnlocks which has highlighted the cultural opportunities in neighbourhoods across Scotland, as galleries and venues re-opened, we shared that they were safe and free to visit, offering new perspectives on our changing world. Our campaign appeared in more than 50 items of press coverage, including the front page of The Times. Our director Moira wrote columns in two national newspapers and appeared on national television and radio, sharing the work of SCAN members. The campaign coverage reached an estimated 1.75m audience online 

Over the summer, we reached out to MSPs throughout Scotland, politicians across the political parties met members across the country, to hear about the role that contemporary visual art plays in their region. In the press, and on our website, we shared the work that members do in wide range of policy areas from wellbeing to climate action. 

Throughout 2021 SCAN have been meeting regularly with Scottish Government Officials, consulting with members and responding to urgent consultations on a range of Covid Issues including emergency support, baseline measures, gallery guidance, and vaccine passports, as well as attending meetings of the Culture Counts steering group and the UK-wide Visual Arts Alliance.   

We took part in the UK wide visual arts campaign to retain Museums Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief, an important source of revenue for the visual arts, sharing members’ case studies, writing to politicians and speaking to officials. In October the chancellor confirmed the scheme would be extended and the rate increased. We continue to try and promote this scheme with members and other eligible organisations.  

To mark COP26, SCAN planted a tree for each of our members. In partnership with East Renfrewshire Council, launching SCAN’s Wee Wood in Carlibar Park, Barrhead. The project will help reduce SCAN’s own carbon impact, support ecological diversity and introduce young people to the role of art in unlocking climate action. Artist and SCAN member Robyn Woolston worked with Carlibar Park Primary School on a programme of tree planting and art activities. We also supported artist Hanna Tuliikki to present her work ‘In Forest Cover’ at the Climate Psychology Alliance, reaching a worldwide audience of 235 specialists and experts in the field. 

At the close of the year our #UnwrapArt digital campaign, encouraged the public to support artists and arts organisations when shopping for Christmas, over a month we highlighted artists selling online, gallery shops and festive markets right across the country. 

Pupils from Carlibar Park Primary School help to plant SCAN's Wee WoodPupils from Carlibar Park Primary help to plant SCAN’s Wee Wood. Image: Alan Dimmick

We helped cultivate and support the visual arts community 

Our projects champion the contribution that art and artists make to society and develop the knowledge and skills of those working in the contemporary visual arts in Scotland. We support innovation, best practice and critical thinking.  Curatorial Leadership in Collections (CLiC)  

Golden Monkey by artist Lisa Roet at Climate HouseGolden Monkey by artist Lisa Roet at Climate House, as featured in our CLiC case studies. Image Courtesy Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

Our CLiC Connect and Activate Programme supported leading collections curators to share and develop their skills and explore how collections can tell new stories for our challenging times thanks to support from Museums Galleries Scotland, Art Fund and Creative Scotland.   

Our series of films and case studies made with partners Climate House, GoMA, Glasgow Women’s Library and Hunterian Art Gallery, tell the story of how working with contemporary artists can transform museum collections. In March, CLiC brought together a range of speakers to explore the dramatic impact of the pandemic on the art funding ecosystem including artist Matthew Burrows. The online event was attended by over 100 people from across the world. 


In 2021, we launched our  Mandate Climate  Fund in partnership with Engage Scotland to respond to climate crisis and support our members in making change.  


In the summer, SCAN delivered an online international programme with Momentum, a partnership with the Edinburgh Art Festival, Festivals Edinburgh, Creative Scotland and British Council Scotland. Through public online events and invited delegates, from Tanzania to Bahrain met with artists including Rae-Yen Song, Tako Taal and Matthew Arthur Williams from Scotland who presented their work in online studio visits. 

SCAN Sparks podcast guestsClockwise from left: Jess Brough, Sekai Machache, Briana Pegado, Ica Headlam, Myriam Mouflih and Claricia Parinussa.

SCAN Sparks  

Our SCAN Sparks programme explores ways in which the cultural community can support grassroots activism and equalities-focused working. In 2021 Artist Sekai Machache worked as SCAN’s Artist Policy Officer developing her research through a series of podcasts with creative practitioners in Scotland, including Ica Headlam of We Are Here Scotland, Jess Brough and Briana Pegado of Fringe of Colour, Claricia Parinussa of ID.Y and SCAN’s own Myriam Mouflih. The podcasts are available to listen to here.   

Taisbean/Curators North  

Taisbean (from the Gaelic term to table, or reveal) brings together contemporary art curators and producers who live and work in the North of Scotland, including the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, Highland, Moray and Eilean Siar (the Western Isles).  

This year with the help of the William Grant Foundation we supported Taisbean members on field trips to visit Glasgow International, to learn from artist run initiatives in Leeds and Manchester, and on peer-to-peer visits, developing bonds and shared projects through face-to-face discussions and digital activity.   

Throughout 2020 we have benefited from funding, support, partnership and a participation from the following organisations to help us deliver advocacy work, projects, campaigns and events. 

Creative Scotland, Art FundMuseums Galleries Scotland, William Grant FoundationEngage ScotlandScottish Artists Union, Culture Counts, Sculpture Placement Group.

And huge thanks to all our members. 

Dream Therapet Carousel by artist Sally Hackett. Image courtesy Hospitalfield.

The year for our network 

It’s been a challenging year for everyone. From the lows of a lockdown January to the highs of re-opening across the spring and summer, we all find ourselves at the year’s end facing renewed personal and professional challenges. 

Right across Scotland in 2021 SCAN members showed just how much culture counts. Our member network consists of dozens of organisations making a difference in their communities across the country. Amongst their incredible achievements this year, Timespan in Helmsdale was shortlisted for Museum of the Year, the biggest museum prize in the world, for its work during the pandemic. And Climavore, a sustainability project developed by the artists Cooking Sections, with ATLAS Arts in Skye, was highlighted in the Turner Prize. The Fruitmarket in Edinburgh launched their expanded new building with improved accessibility and new space for installation and performance. Hospitalfield in Arbroath opened their redeveloped garden, restored fernery and new garden café, ensuring valuable access to outdoor space at a critical time for visitors. Gaada announced details of their new proposed site in Scalloway, Shetland Only this month Collective opened Observatory House, restoring and repurposing a listed building on Calton Hill, in Edinburgh. 

At the heart of all this work was sharing and supporting the work of contemporary artists. Across the country from the Pier in Orkney to Cample Line in Dumfries our members showed brilliant work. Festivals like EAF shared work with audiences in venues from a gorgeous community garden to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. At Glasgow International artists led powerful conversations about injustice and the need for change including Alberta Whittle’s powerful film Business as Usual: Hostile Environment, at Glasgow Sculpture Studios. At Jupiter Artland, The Jupiter Rising Festival hosted a new generation of artists through its residency programme.  During COP26 artists and arts organisations raised their voices, from The Common Guild’s staging of Gustav Metzger’s Mobbile to Climate House’s work with artists Walker and Bromwich to host powerful indigenous voices from across the globe in the fight for climate action.  

Above all our members worked for and with their communities. Platform worked with the local authority to distribute free meals during the school holidays in Easterhouse, Glasgow. Dundee Contemporary Arts distributed family art packs during the pandemic. Across the country on issues from climate action to human rights Scotland’s artists are taking the lead. 

 To find out more about contemporary art in Scotland, you can join our mailing list via our website