Emma Nicolson

Head of Visual Arts

Email: [email protected]

Areas of responsibility

Emma Nicolson is a specialist within the visual arts sector, renowned for her innovative thinking, strategic development, and deep commitment to societal and environmental engagement, developed through a portfolio career that includes leadership roles in arts and culture organizations in the UK and Australia.

As the new Head of Visual Arts at Creative Scotland, Emma brings a wealth of experience and a passion for fostering creative and critical thinking.

Background and experience

Prior to joining Creative Scotland, Emma served as the Head of Arts at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). There, she spearheaded the development of a transformative arts strategy that seamlessly integrated art, nature, science, and environmental concerns.

Key initiatives included the ground-breaking Climate House project and a significant collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, which focused on ecological and climate issues. Emma Nicolson's work at RBGE also involved curating numerous high-profile exhibitions and engaging with the colonial legacies of botanical collections, reflecting a commitment to historical and contemporary dialogues. She continues to pursue her interest in Plant Humanities as an Honorary Research Associate at RBGE.

Before RBGE, Emma was the founding director of the award-winning ATLAS Arts on the Isle of Skye, where a series of large-scale commissions, exhibitions, and performance programmes were successfully delivered. This role highlighted her dedication to community-based, collaborative initiatives and innovative programming.

During this time she also undertook a two-year guest curator role with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Usit (2014-16).  After finishing her arts education in Edinburgh and London, Emma curated for Lothian and Fife museums going on to hold senior management positions at institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and the National Galleries of Scotland.

An active contributor to the broader arts community, she is a member of CIMAM – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art and ICOM (the International Council of Museums) and has served in advisory roles and on various boards including Scottish Contemporary Art Network and Creative Carbon Scotland. This involvement underscores a commitment to the cultural landscape and the development of sustainable practices within the arts.

She has also been a regular contributor to conferences and seminars has lectures for cultural and educational institutions including Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (Royal Academy of Art).

At Creative Scotland, Emma leads the Visual Arts team. Where she is dedicated to driving forward the visual arts agenda, leveraging extensive experience and strategic vision to inspire change and foster creative excellence.