Scanning the year 2020

It’s been a year like no other. As we approach the end of 2020, we’d like to recap on the work we’ve been doing for our members over the last 12 months. We’ve found new ways to connect with members far and wide; we’ve spoken up for contemporary art at the highest level and we’ve continued to provide opportunities for developing and nurturing your skills. 

As we enter a new year, where the inspiration and the challenges are set to continue, we’d love to count more of you among our growing community. Find out how to join us here.

How we’ve connected you

SCAN’s aims are to connect, champion and cultivate Scotland’s contemporary art community. Our 225 members work 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. There are SCAN members in 26 out of 32 local authority areas in Scotland.

In 2020 we grew our social media to share member news and events, as well as to keep you updated in ever-changing times. With 21,127 followers across the main social media platforms, our reach is growing constantly. 

We kept you informed with regular newsletters to our 1600-strong mailing list, as well as targeted advocacy and policy updates for our members, and bulletins sent to MSPs. 

This year we reached more of you than ever through a series of online member meetings. A total of 22 sessions, reaching hundreds of you across the country, covered everything from funding advice and advocacy updates, working online during lockdown, leadership in a crisis, a safe return to work, tax relief, preparing for Brexit and introducing our new Chair. We also  held our first ever online AGM on the 11th June.

In September we launched our new website, placing our member network at the heart of what we do.

Ways we’ve championed contemporary visual art

SCAN works tirelessly to raise the voice of artists and art organisations with government, funders and a wide range of policymakers. 

As lockdown became a reality in March we shared Covid-19 planning advice and then government guidance as it emerged. We set up some urgent free advice for members about moving to digital. 

We began regular conversations with Sottish Government officials, helping them understand what help the visual arts need in a time of crisis.

We spoke regularly to funders and colleagues about how to support art and artists during the pandemic.

In April we undertook an extensive survey across the visual arts community to collate information on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic from the wider visual arts community and to inform advocacy with government and funders. The results were picked up by the press, and were reported to government and funders.

In May We brought representatives of the contemporary art community together with the senior leadership team at Creative Scotland sharing our members’ needs and building the case for culture as we approached exit from the first lockdown.

We issued a set of proposals for a visual art sector emergency stimulus, that would benefit the entirety of the visual art ecology – organisations and individuals alike. We also urged the establishment of a fund which would help artists to sustain their livelihoods in the immediate term.

In June We wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture Fiona Hyslop about the needs of the visual art sector in the pandemic.

We made two submissions to the inquiry by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee at Westminster into the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors, ensuring that member voices were heard at UK Government level.

To let politicians know about the the help needed for the arts we submitted evidence  to the CTEEA (Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs) Committee of the Scottish Parliament, sharing our concerns and calling for action to spark renewal and recovery of the visual arts community to enable it to continue contributing to wider wellbeing.

In July we held roundtable discussions, bringing the art community together with MSPs Claire Baker and Patrick Harvie. We sense-checked the needs of the sector with a spot survey.

In August We renewed our call for a visual arts stimulus and held a sector roundtable with Fiona Hyslop, bringing together a wide range of voices from the art community and calling for urgent action on help for the visual arts sector.

Our press campaign to Keep Art in Action reached national and local newspapers across the country, highlighting the help needed.

Artists like Alberta Whittle, Duncan Campbell and Jacqueline Donachie supported our campaign to keep art in action. Nathan Coley appeared on the STV news calling for support for artists in the pandemic.

SCAN organised a letter from more than 60 leading voices in the art community to Robert Wilson, the Chair of Creative Scotland, to share member concerns about public advocacy and the need to support artists and organisations in the pandemic. 

In September SCAN brought a group of members from across Scotland together to meet with Robert Wilson, Chair of Creative Scotland, sharing concerns about recovering funding and strategic support for the sector.

We wrote again to Fiona Hyslop MSP, to outline member concerns about the newly announced Creative Scotland Cultural Organisations and Venue Recovery Fund.

In October we surveyed members to find out the continuing impact of the pandemic, feeding our concerns back to both Creative Scotland and Scottish Government.

In November Joan McAlpine MSP, Chair of the CTEEA Committee quoted from SCAN’s advocacy letter during the parliamentary debate on arts funding which took place on 3rd November 2020.

We published our manifesto asks for the 2021 Scottish elections asking politicians to Nurture, Support and Invest in the people and places that make our culture, placing them at the heart of the national recovery and the wellbeing economy.

In December we met with the Scottish government to share our members concerns about Brexit

We shared our elections asks, meeting with the political parties as they prepared their election manifestos.

How we’ve helped to cultivate the visual art workforce

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.

In March we held a curatorial symposium for visual art curators with eminent curators Ann Wagner and TJ Clark.

In August The digital Art in Action campaign was launched ito show how vital contemporary art, and all of those whose livelihoods are supported by it, are to the future of this country as we rebuild. Through press releases, direct contact with MSPs and our #KeepArtInAction hashtag, we were able to share the stories of important work members were doing in their communities to help others in the difficult months of lockdown during 2020.

Curatorial Leadership in Collections (CLiC)

Our Curatorial leadership in Collections project supported a network of contemporary art curators from collections across Scotland and shares learning with the wider museums sector. 

In November our public webinar Museums Are Bad for You? with researchers Dave O’Brien and Orian Brook drew audiences from across the UK.

Taisbean/Curators North

In 2020 we launched Taisbean (from the Gaelic term to table, or reveal) which 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).


Our Mandate Go See Fund, launched with Engage Scotland, aims to help develop the knowledge and/or skills of a wide range of voices, in turn ensuring that diverse opinions are able to feed into policy developments in Scotland and across the UK.

Sculpture Placement Group/Circular Arts Network

We were  proud to support The Sculpture Placement Group with the development of their Circular Arts Network project, providing a platform for artists to share materials, labour and other resources whilst reducing costs and waste.


Throughout 2020 the following organisations have helped us deliver advocacy work, projects, and online member meets. 

Creative Scotland, Scottish Artists Union, Art Fund, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Museums Galleries Scotland, Culture Counts, William Grant Foundation. 

Find out more about us here.

And if you’d like to become part of this growing movement of voices – here’s how