6 January 2016
The Times (p.11)
The artist at the centre of a bitter row over arts funding has volunteered to meet her critics face to face.
Creative Scotland’s decision to give Ellie Harrison £15,000 to spend a year in Glasgow triggered an angry backlash.
The experimental artist was accused of sneering at the city after calling her project the “Glasgow Effect“, a term which refers to its woeful health record, and promoting it with an image of deep-fried food.
The confirmation of funding from the state arts agency generated thousands of comments on social media and prompted the leader of Glasgow city council to intervene.
Harrison, 36, an art lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, claimed that she planned to donate the £15,000 to her employers in return for paid leave.
The project would allow her to “increase her sense of belonging, testing what becomes possible when she invests all her ideas, time and energy within the city where she lives”.
In an online statement, the artist, who lives in Glasgow, said: “The application was written over the course of one month in June 2015. I was required to write and submit a significant research grant application.
“After one unsuccessful attempt, on October 20, 2015 l was awarded the grant. Since then, I have been negotiating an agreement with the university to ‘donate’ the £15,000 to them in exchange for paid ‘research leave’ in order to undertake the project.”
She claimed to have been left stunned by the response, adding: “Glasgow has been my home 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 claimed that her work was designed to be provocative and to highlight the “undesirable consequences of certain funding systems”.
Frank McAveety, the city’s council leader, was unimpressed by the venture. He said: “Ellie’s project is centred on living in Glasgow and not leaving the city for a year.
“We can put her in touch with legions of single-parent families living in poverty who can tell her in minutes what it’s like to be poor in Glasgow.”
Ellie Koepplinger wrote on Facebook: “I’m not quite sure what this project attempts to achieve. Right now, I simply am shocked that the first thing the artist has associated with living within Glasgow for a year is a plate of chips.”
Ross Harris wrote on Creative Scotland’s Facebook page: “How anyone within your organisation was unable to see how disrespectful this project is to the people of Glasgow is beyond me.”
Ms Harrison was defended by Kevin Williamson, the author and poet, who wrote: “Artist gets similar response Tracey Emin got for her unmade bed: ‘It’s not art!’ In my opinion this is an intriguing original concept.”
Angel Reid added: “Having met Ellie several times I highly doubt she meant to offend anyone or even considered the backlash she might face. The lynching that’s going on is highly unfair.”
Creative Scotland defended its decision to fund the scheme. A spokesman said: “Ellie is a recognised artist and we will be interested to see how the project progresses.”