Issue 202
March/April 2018

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Mar 25, 2018
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    Another West Lothian question…

    Our West Lothian correspondent, Cathy Bell, while saluting the achievement of the new Chair of Creative Scotland, Robert Wilson, with his Jupiter Artland sculpture park, wonders why it has been spirited to 'Edinburgh' rather than West Lothian, where it is actually based.

    IT IS disconcerting to witness the way time flies and sometimes for more reasons than simply time flying. For example, I find it disconcerting to note that the Jupiter Artland sculpture park near Wilkieston in West Lothian opened to the public ten years ago.

    Really? I remember my enthusiasm about having internationally renowned world class art on my doorstep, I was sure some of this would rub off on the surrounding area; inject some excitement, some new life blood into the lacklustre visual art scene in West Lothian.

    I penned a short article which was published in ArtWork in the early days of its opening. The article was upbeat, to quote myself, I say that Jupiter Artland demonstrates that "West Lothian is now on the map as a location for world class contemporary art".

    Well, it would be if Jupiter Artland actually recognised itself as being located in West Lothian, which does not seem to be the case. Whilst Jupiter Artland has gained plaudits as a paradigm of virtue, bestowing the gift of prodigious contemporary art on the people of Scotland, West Lothian appears bereft of any such thing.

    The opening of Jupiter Artland included a fireworks display by the artist Cornelia Parker which showered the landscape with moon-rock dust. Unfortunately, all that landed on the West Lothian side of said landscape was a damp squib.

    I recognise the good work that Jupiter Artland does: the educational aspect is laudable. However, I have to ask why such a high profile entity has such a low-key presence in the place where it is located? It is all but invisible in West Lothian, conspicuous by its absence.

    There would seem to be no leaflets advertising Jupiter Artland in public areas that display such items. Even a West Lothian tourist brochure, while including places such as the Outlander Filming Locations and Five Sisters Zoo, omits Jupiter Artland.

    In turn Jupiter Artland advertises itself as being located in Edinburgh. On the VisitScotland website, for example, their address is listed as being Wilkieston, Edinburgh, West Lothian. Basic geography tells us that Edinburgh is not in West Lothian: it never has been.

    There seem to me two possible reasons for this: one of them is acceptable and the other not quite so acceptable.

    First reason, to identify with Edinburgh helps people from farther afield to locate it in relation to the capital city. Fine.

    However, the other reason. to distance itself from West Lothian preferring to tie itself to the Edinburgh side. seems rather more suspect.

    Perhaps Jupiter Artland does not want to align itself with a historically industrial, working-class area, with little or no reputation as a cultural hub, which has little or no visual art culture to speak of? Again, I have to discount the myriad pieces of public art in this respect.

    I understand that it is not the job of Jupiter Artland to invigorate what goes on in West Lothian in terms of visual art culture. However, I do think they could have contributed more over the ten years. I do not see any knock-on effect from the kudos it enjoys that has thus far been of benefit to West Lothian.

    There was an opportunity to inject some much needed chutzpah into a lack-lustre situation. I sent an e-mail recently to Jupiter Artland voicing my concerns yet, at the time of writing, I have had no reply.

    Why, you might ask yourself, is this important?What do the woes of West Lothian matter to people in say Kincardineshire, Moray, Roxburghshire or Angus?

    However, now that the co-owner of Jupiter Artland, Robert Wilson, has been appointed the new Chair of Creative Scotland, this might be a question worth asking.

    Wilson became Chair in February, taking over at a difficult time amid controversy over funding cuts. With the resignation of board members, amongst them the plain-talking Ruth Wishart, it has been suggested that Robert Wilson is being handed a poisoned chalice with his appointment.

    Certainly it is not a job for the faint-hearted, but it should be a job for the fair-minded.

    One wonders, therefore, as evidenced by his running of Jupiter Artland, if he is committed to the overseeing of a fair and evenly spread cultural environment across the whole of Scotland?

    To create such a thing you can't cherry-pick the areas you want to reach any more than you can shift Edinburgh into West Lothian.

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