Visual Arts Sector Review published

Published: 19 Oct 2016

The first comprehensive survey of Scotland’s Visual Arts Sector has been published today.

The report draws on evidence gathered from more than 1000 individual artists and organisations through open session discussions and online surveys. This evidence describes the people, places, resources and relationships that underpin the sector’s achievements as well as identifying some of the challenges that lie ahead, and ideas for future development.

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts at Creative Scotland said: “This important piece of work that draws on the experiences of a great many professionals working across the sector. We’d like to thank the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) for undertaking the mapping that has contributed in such a large part to the Review and to thank all of the individuals and organisations that participated in our consultation. We hope they will find the Review of interest and of use to their work in the future.

“We believe this is a rich and diverse sector that is generating high levels of excellence, innovation and public value across its work. It is a sector that is populated by highly skilled and educated professionals who are nationally and internationally connected, ambitious, motivated and resourceful in their work.

“Encouraging figures show that 23,000 students studying art and design make it the most popular arts subject in Scotland’s secondary schools. Alongside this, public interest in the visual arts continues to grow with festivals and exhibitions reporting increasing attendance figures. For example, visual arts organisations in Creative Scotland’s portfolio of Regularly Funded Organisations recorded over 1.2 million attendances in 2014/15.

“However, the study raises concerns about the sustainability of careers in the sector and how best to maintain the quality, ambition and reach of their work into the future - with challenges being faced by artists and other freelance professionals working across the country.

“We want Scotland to maintain its position as a recognised international centre of excellence for the visual arts. This review identifies a need for the sector to be enabled to maintain and grow the resources required to sustain its work. Building resilience will require high levels of creativity and ambition; strong, effective and connected; new alliances and connections; and longer term strategic partnerships, between the public and the private sectors, and within Scotland and beyond.

“Following today’s publication we will bring together sector representatives and partner bodies in November, in partnership with SCAN, to test the findings of the report and the priorities set out in it. Our aim is to establish a collective and collegiate approach to future development, strengthening the sector for the future.”

Seonaid Daly, Director of Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) said:  “We welcome the acknowledgement that despite high levels of artistic excellence and activity generated, the sector is financially fragile from both a personal and organisational perspective. SCAN is committed to working with Creative Scotland on behalf of our members to make sure that appropriate and meaningful actions can be initiated which will positively impact the working lives of our ambitious but over-stretched artists and cultural workers.

“This detailed information gives us such a great insight into the different experiences of artists, curators and other cultural workers right across Scotland, and we are grateful to everyone who took the time to fill them out, helping to make this research a success. We will use this bank of data and information to help shape development activities and advocacy over the coming years.”

Read the Visual Arts Sector Review and supporting documents in full.

Notes to Editors

The Visual Arts Sector Review was conducted by Creative Scotland.

The work on the Review was undertaken in two distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 - Mapping the Visual Arts in Scotland (Aug-Dec 2015)
  • Phase 2 - Open Sessions & Roundtable Conversations (Jan-May 2016)

The Review has generated the following information:

  • A survey of individuals working in the Visual Arts in Scotland (summarising the data received to the online surveys)
  • A survey of organisations working in the Visual Arts in Scotland (summarising the data received to the online surveys)
  • A Report on the Consultation (summarising the conversations and round table conversations)

Alongside the Review document, these publications are available at

In addition, Creative Scotland commissioned SCAN to produce a digital map of the visual arts in Scotland and a summary of the learning from the mapping process. Both are available on the SCAN website:

One of the first priorities to emerge as a result of Visual Arts Sector Review is the need to consider how connected leadership – at a national and local level in the sector - can be more effectively harnessed and used to best effect.

Other headline priorities to have emerged from the Review process include:

  • Maintaining the ambition and quality of work that has defined the sector
  • Strengthening national and international connections
  • Clearly articulating and effectively supporting the successful ways in which artists and arts organisations respond to Scotland’s distinct and diverse communities
  • Recognising the value that artists deliver to society and their exceptionally high levels of knowledge, expertise and the public impact of the experiences and opportunities that the sector generates
  • Improving the financial position of artists and other creative individuals working as freelance and self-employed across the sector
  • Strengthening the financial position of organisations working in the sector by exploring new ways of working, and building capacity, generating resilience and underpinning future growth

Creative Scotland is committed to working in partnership with others to fund and support the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland, to enable them to contribute to a thriving creative future for the whole country. Through developing and sharing our 10 year plan, individual strategies and sector reviews we aim to widen understanding of the potential across the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland, and support policy and funding approaches on a local as well as national level. See for further information on all our sector reviews.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit

Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) is a member led network committed to championing and supporting the contemporary art sector in Scotland. Their vision is one where engagement with contemporary art plays a prominent and influential role in the social fabric of our country. For this to happen they believe that the industry professionals based and working here must be connected, effective and innovative and that the collective voice of the sector works together to be heard at all levels of policymaking. For further information about SCAN please visit

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