While Virginia Woolf felt that serious writing required ‘A Room of

()ne‘s ()wn'. Eugene Delacroix. who

hurried to his brushes and canvases 'as other men run to their mistress'. was a passionate advocate of the artist's workspace: ‘The studio has become the crucible in which human genius at the peak ofits development. brings back into question everything that exists.‘ Even Monet who sat in a floating studio to paint water lilies and those ‘plein air‘ fanatics. the Glasgow Boys. had somewhere to go on rainy days. But these creative havens are not free and many young artists struggling to pay for materials cannot afford a place of their own. The Workshop and Artists Studio Provision Scotland Ltd (WASPS) is a non-profit making charitable company which strives to meet the very high demand for low cost workspace throughout the country. Very little statistical information is

available on the number ofpractising

artists in Scotland. but some 350 graduate from the four art schools alone each year. First established in 1977 with the help ofthe Scottish Arts Council. this year WASPS hopes to accommodate nearly 200 painters. sculptors amd craftspeople by opening new premises and expanding existing ones in four cities. It looks for large. centrally situated buildings which have outgrown their original use. Studios in ex-warehouses and factories remind one of New York's artists‘ lofts in the old industrial units of Lower Manhattan. but there are also spaces in a former Edinburgh bakery. a printers” mill in 'I'illicoultry. a jute mill in Dundee and in redundant British Rail properties in Stonehaven and Aberdeen. Stirling artists will even go behind bars to work in the Old 'l'olbooth Prison.

As WASPS is a registered charity. premises are usually eligible for a 50"} rates remission. But the various regional councils have different policies. Aberdeen receives none of this support. whereas Glasgow is absolved completely. so rents which include heating and lighting also vary from place to place. In Glasgow's King Street premises. the charge is £ 1 .80 per square foot per annum. which means a small studio costs as little as £6 a week and a few people economise further by sharing spaces. Ideally. when fully occupied. each building should be self-financing but an annual SAC revenue grant of £25000 helps to make up deficits as well as covering administrative costs. In 1985 the SAC awarded a further {20.000 capital for the first phase of work on new buildings in Edinburgh and Dundee and is expected to contribute more this year but the exact amount has yet to be disclosed.

A board of 12 voluntary specialists including studio representatives. art school teachers and gallery directors. meet monthly to decide WASPS policy. Studios are rented

1 on a strictly first come. first served

9 basis: ‘A vetting procedure. subject

l to narrow taste. would be both impractical and completely unfair'.

am List 7— 20 Feb



Lucy Ash looks at WASPS Scotland‘s bold initiative in workspace for artists.

til-“ll ,j‘l“ illllql'l’ II'o‘{I|\i‘ii.“H

Sitting with a Dragon in Sicily

says Phil Braham. an artist who represents Edinburgh's Patriothall studios. However artists or craftspeople who are managing exceptionally well commercially are encouraged to look elsewhere. Some full time artists complain that WASPS is abused by a sprinkling of dilettantes and by people who use their studios as cheap storage space. However another board member. Tom Laurie. a surveyor involved in Glasgow‘s Eastern Area Renewal project. believes such abuse is rare: ‘You can‘t police people - we’re not a board ofcensorship.‘

Although the board is unanimous on the admissions policy. some. like the chairman. Hugh McCray of 'l‘ayside Regional Council. feel the running of the studios should be devolved and that each location ought to ‘wash its face‘ whereas Mr Laurie favours cross subsidising: ‘I don't see why an artist who happens to live in Aberdeen should pay more because of the oil boom.‘

Yet affordable space is not the only important factor. The collective studios also provide a forum for exchanging ideas and although many treasure the privacy denied to them at borne. some also enjoy being part ofa working community. Coincidentally perhaps. the name WASPS recalls the famous 1920s Parisian colony for impoverished artists like Soutine and Chagall which was known as La Ruche (the beehive) because of the odd circular shape of the building. Moreover the grouping together of the studios is

3 convenient as it enables gallery

El .ISl". V Al 1 .AN

directors. art critics and prospective buyers to view a wide range of work in one location. ‘No one takes you seriously if you work at home'. explains Peter Howson. one of the seven Glasgow New Image painters whospent a few years in King Street. Open days are regularly held and Mr Braham is hoping that an exhibition featuring work produced at WASPS throughout Scotland will become an annual Festival event.

To further strengthen artists‘ contacts with the outside world this April WASPS is appointing a ‘development officer‘ whose duties include fundraising and advising artists and craftspeople on how to market their work. Mr McCray says ofthe £11000 per year Scottish Development Agency funded post: ‘lt‘s a challenging job. Companies are often keen to sponsor exhibitions. btit workspaces seem less glamorous and we must persuade them otherwise.‘ Christian Salvesen. the Edinburgh based firm. have taken the initiative by donating £ 1 .000 to Patriothall and sponsoring a competition for a mural in their staffcanteen.

The WASPS building at King Street on the third floor ofa former Glasgow warehouse provides space for 40 painters. sculptors. silversmiths. graphic designers and stained glass artists. Richard Walker. 30. who has done scene painting for Scottish ()pera was glad to escape from home as he likes to

work on the floor. trample on his t pictures and splatter paint l everywhere without worrying about

the mess. As big canvases and oils

are expensive. he has been using bargain bed sheets from Paddy‘s Market and household emulsion. The young artists at King Street give an impression of tough resourcefulness. Alistair Strachan. 27. who trained at the Edinburgh College of Art moved to Glasgow four years ago because WASPS offered him the space. ‘I didn‘t have much money. so I began building pictures out of bits of wood and junk like chairbottorns and rubber tubing it‘s amazing what people throw away - I once found a set ofchurch pews.‘ Donald Urquhart. 26. another Edinburgh-trained artist. who attached a bright orange fox skeleton to one of his paintings. says: ‘I could have done post-graduate work. but I wanted to get out ofthe college system. I wouldn‘t like to

i stay here indefinitely because I need a much bigger space. but it‘s a great

help between art school and getting

. more established.’

Three artists. Alistair Strachan.

Lesley Raeside and Alistair Magee.

are also founder members of the nearby 'l‘ransmission gallery. which. as an alternative exhibition space.

complements the role ofthe WASPS

studios. But many ofthe King Street

clan have exhibited widely elsewhere. and are alreadyquite well .

known. Several of their works featured in the I985 Smith Biennial

show which Waldemar Januszczak. the Guardian art critic. described as

‘a proud. loud shout ofconfidence

from new Scottish art.‘

As the King Street waiting list now stands at 70 plus. many welcome the

opening of the WASPS new Glasgow premises at East Campbell Street

behind Barrowland. The 1950s red brick warehouse. once filled with

E wool and rneatskinners‘ equipment.

will accommodate 40 artists over 12.000 square feet on the top two floors. The building was found by a

7 group ofartists from the Glasgow Print Studio headed by Jacki Parry.

who wants to set up a paper-making

studio. She asked WASPS to take

over the twenty-five year lease from the owners Windex the first firm to start renovation in the Merchant City area. Ian Milliken. the architect involved. is enthusiastic about ‘the fantastic amount ofdaylight' in

WASPS' new premises. and is glad that the warehouse which has lain semi—derelict and vandalised for several years will be put to good use.

I Untilrecentlytherewasa

desperate lack ofstudio space in Edinburgh. WASPS has spent five

years looking for somewhere after the district council reclaimed the Nelson Hall library for storage

space. Eventually. suitable premises were found in the old St Cuthberts bakery at Patriothall in Stockbridge. which is owned by Scotrnid. and the

co-operative provided WASPS with

a lease well below the usual

commercial rate. Substantial

support also came in the form ofa

l£75.00() interest free loan from the

SDA on the agreement that at least

l25 C? of the studio space would be for craftspeople.

The four storey Patriothall

building will provide 75 spaces when l