Artists Make a Better World: Sculpture House

SCAN’s summer 2023 campaign Artists Make a Better World aims to highlight the many ways that artists contribute to our wellbeing. The work of SCAN member organisation Sculpture House is a great example of how artists make artists out of everyone through workshops and teaching, as well as making communities stronger through sustained engagement.

Situated in Paisley, Sculpture House is run by Laura Aldridge, Nick Evans and James Rigler, artists who share a passion for sculpture and social inclusion. Through their work, they aim to bring together professional artists and members of the community, and turn the house into a living work of art.

Laura Aldridge spoke to SCAN about the project, and the effect it has had on the local community and the individual artists who initiated it.

Claire: When did you start the Sculpture House project, and what were your initial aims? 

Laura: The idea of Sculpture House began in 2020  Me and Nick were renting what already felt like precarious studios when the pandemic began and we just decided there had to be another way of doing things. So we began what was to become a very long conversation of what we needed, the shape it would take and how we would make it happen. We invited James to join us because he had previously expressed his desire to be in a more open and welcoming studio environment. Our ideas chimed with his thinking.

Why did you choose to base the project in Paisley?

Our main aim at this stage was stability – we wanted to find a space that could provide security for ourselves. We were also interested in working in studios that were connected to the community in which they were based rather than set apart. One reason we chose to base our project in Paisley was because I had already worked with the community in Ferguslie Park so we knew that there was interest locally in developing an art space. Renfrewshire Council and Future Paisley in particular were receptive to our proposal and have been a key partner in getting our ideas off the ground.

What mix of people do you work with at Sculpture House?

We provide studios to a small group of artists and together we share workshop spaces and provide community engagement opportunities. We see the idea of a ‘community’ as elastic and ever changing – there is the community of artists that base their studio practices at Sculpture House, then there is the immediate local community in Ferguslie who we work with in a number of ways. We continue to be engaged with the wider visual arts community in Scotland and internationally. We are really interested in the way that we can mix and link between all these different communities that all have unique perspectives and contributions to make.

Can you tell me about an event at Sculpture House that was particularly memorable for you?

In June we held our inaugural Summer Social event, an open house day and a barbecue. This event was a great example of mixing together the different communities we have mentioned, and provided a really interesting window on how these communities can relate to each other. We offered activities which not only drew on our own visual arts specialisms, but also resources that the local community could offer. For example, we provided a clay table where people could come and make a large model of the Sculpture House out of clay [pictured in the lead image]. Meanwhile local grassroots organisation The Darkwood Crew came with their bingo bus and everyone played bingo. All these activities helped people to mix and meet one another in order to share skills and experiences.

Are you involved in any other projects that involve the wider community?

I am currently working with the community at Erskine Arts developing a Sculptural Sound Garden for their HQ. It’s is a brilliant organisation supporting people through access to creative activities, predominantly music based. Nick and James are currently working on public art commissions and with the community in healthcare settings.

How has working with Sculpture House affected your personal art practice?

I feel a much deeper sense of connection to my practice. I have never housed all my activities in one place before – the things I make, my experiments, conversations with neighbours, the workshops I run, skill sharing with other Sculpture House artists, the groups I meet with. Sure, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and there is A LOT of work that has been done in our first year – but I wholeheartedly believe that artists are useful and shouldn’t be shut away in studios they can’t afford. There’s a sense of generosity to our endeavour and it feels beneficial to us as artists as well our our communities. James and Nick have enjoyed the sense of openness that has come with working in a more porous way. We have all enjoyed the challenge of establishing a new organisation and developing new models of practice that feel more relevant, innovative and future facing

Visit the Sculpture House website for information on workshops and events. See the SCAN project page for more information and resources related to Artists Make a Better World.

All photographs by Alexander Hoyles.