5 January 2016
BBC News, Glasgow & West Scotland
Arts body Creative Scotland has defended giving an artist £15,000 to spend a year without leaving Glasgow.
Ellie Harrison’s project is called The Glasgow Effect – a term relating to poor health in parts of the city.
The artist said she wanted to explore sustainability by travelling less and focusing more on local opportunities.
Critics on social media have described it as a waste of money but Creative Scotland said Harrison’s strong proposal had qualified for funding.
On a web page explaining the project, Harrison states: “The Glasgow Effect is year long action research project / durational performance, for which artist Ellie Harrison will not travel outside Greater Glasgow for a whole year (except in the event of the ill-heath / death of close relative or friend).
“By setting this one simple restriction to her current lifestyle, she intends to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic.”
While some reaction on Twitter and Facebook to the project was positive, others described it as patronising and a waste of money.
Kieran Hurley tweeted: “All I know about #TheGlasgowEffect is there has been an ill-judged press release by an artist who has previously done good work. That’s it.”
Michael Gray tweeted: “Every time someone tweets me about #TheGlasgowEffect, a @CreativeScots executive adds it to their tally of ‘met key performance indicators’.”
‘Patronises and insults’
On Facebook, Alex William McRobbie, posted: “The funding of such a project both patronises and insults the poorest living within the city of Glasgow.
“I know of several young artists who haven’t left the city in the past year as a result of financial pressures.”
Amanda Cameron said: “Why not go in and around the city and ask people who actually do live, work and have generated an existence for themselves – not in the name of art, but as their actual lives?!
“It’s a complete waste of money… and a slap on the face to the people living and working in Glasgow!”
Harrison later posted on Facebook that she was in negotiations with Duncan of Jordanstone College, where she lectures in contemporary art, “to donate the £15,000 to them in exchange for paid research leave in order to undertake the project”.
Referring to reaction on social media, she said: “Glasgow has been my home for seven-and-a-half years and to suddenly have a response like this to one of my projects has been quite overwhelming.
“You have given me so much material to digest, it will take the whole year to do so. I hope to follow-up by meeting many of you face-to-face, when all the fuss has died down.”
The artist also promised to “shortly publish” her full application to Creative Scotland “in the interests of transparency and to provide a more detailed context for the project”.
She ended the post: “At least now, thanks to you all, I have ticked the Creative Scotland’s ‘Public Engagement’ box, I can get on with the real work.”
Creative Scotland defended its decision to provide funding.
In a statement, the arts body said Harrison was “a recognised artist with an MA with Distinction from the Glasgow School of Art”.
The statement went on: “Her idea, articulated in a strong proposal which met all the criteria for open project funding, focused on exploring whether it’s possible for an artist to generate an existence for themselves by living, working and contributing to a single community, as opposed to being constantly on the road because of the need to earn money from commissions from different places that incur costly travel and accommodation costs and high carbon footprint usage.
“Ellie’s project is based on the premise that if society wishes to achieve global change, then individuals have to be more active within their communities at a local level.
“In restricting herself to staying within the city boundaries she is keen to explore what impact this will have her on her life and on her work as an artist with national and international commitments.”
The statement concluded: “Our funding will support Ellie’s creative practice in Glasgow and we will be interested to see how the project progresses.
“As part of our funding conditions we will require an evaluation of the project once it is completed.”