Creative Scotland is delighted to announce the appointment of Emma Nicolson as its new Head of Visual Arts

Following an extensive recruitment process, Emma Nicolson takes up the role of Head of Visual Arts.

An image of Emma Nicolson who is a woman with longer reddish brown hair, smiling gently at the camera. Image by Suzy Higgins.

Image by Suzy Higgins.

Making the move from Head of Arts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Emma is a seasoned professional with an expansive range of leadership experience and a track record of delivering strategic vision and change. Emma’s background reaches across curation, artists’ development, international partnerships, arts education and catalysing programmes which address the visibility of marginalised artists and the ecological crisis.

Welcoming the appointment, Executive Director of Arts, Communities and Inclusion at Creative ScotlandDana MacLeod said: “Emma will bring a wealth of experience to the role at a crucial time for the sector.  She has led meaningful work internationally, in rural contexts, within institutions and in communities.  Emma is embedded in collaborative practice and deeply understands the needs of artists. I look forward to welcoming her and shaping the future of our support and development for the visual arts in Scotland.”

On taking up the role, Emma said: “I am looking forward to joining my new colleagues as I embark on this exciting journey with Creative Scotland as Head of Visual Arts.

“It is a privilege to build on Amanda Catto’s legacy to work with artists and arts organisations across Scotland’s vibrant visual arts sector.

“Now, more than ever, we recognise the transformative power of creativity to bridge divides and cultivate shared understanding, and I’m committed to fostering an environment where artistic expression flourishes.”

Emma begins her role on May 20, 2024, following Amanda Catto’s early retirement in December 2023.


Emma Nicolson's bio

Emma’s professional journey showcases a profound passion for realising collaborative, engaging, and audience-building initiatives within the realm of visual arts, particularly those which help engender societal change. Her roles as an arts producer, curator, programmer and consultant have demonstrated commitment to working with artists, creative professionals and communities, encouraging creative and critical thinking with local, as well as national and international audiences.

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.

Emma served as the founding director of the award-winning ATLAS Arts based on the Isle of Skye where she developed a distinctive curatorial style characterised by collaborative engagements with artists, showcasing a portfolio, predominantly featuring female artists and duos such as: Vija Celmins, Walker & Bromwich, Joanne Tatham & Tom O’ Sullivan, Cooking Sections, and John Akomfrah.

During her tenure she undertook a two-year guest curator role with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Uist establishing a vibrant hub for innovative, artist-initiated exhibitions, commissions, and performances.

As the Head of Arts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) Emma spearheaded the development of a new arts strategy and the creation of diverse programming which integrated art, nature, science, and the environment. She incorporated responses to the legacies of empire and formed international partnerships including with the Getty Foundation, and in 2020 she initiated Climate House, establishing a strategic alliance with the Serpentine Galleries.

Emma actively contributes to the arts community through membership activity with CIMAM – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art and ICOM (International Council of Museums), CLiC, Curatorial Leadership in Collections Group, and served two years on the Margaret Tait Film award selection panel. She was a founding Trustee of the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) and has served on the Boards of the Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow, Creative Carbon Scotland and Portree and Braes Community Trust.

She is a regular contributor to conferences and lectures for cultural and educational institutions nationally and internationally, including the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh; and Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (Royal Academy of Art) in the Hague.

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at

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