This article is from 2009.
Behind the scenes of a gallery with a bright new future
Billy Connolly once surmised that the great thing about Glasgow was that ‘if there’s a nuclear attack it’ll look exactly the same afterwards’. The Big Yin has a point. But while its character remains, some of Glasgow’s cultural hubs have certainly enjoyed a change of face in recent years. Case in point: Trongate 103, the latest creation to rise from the ashes. Transformed from the ground level up, this Edwardian warehouse in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City, once home to the city’s rag trade, is now a hub for some of the city’s most influential gallery spaces.
A work in progress for almost three years, a peek behind the scenes shows the sheer scale – and energy – of the project. Housed over six storeys, the new space creates a home for Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Glasgow Media Access Centre, Glasgow Print Studio, Glasgow Independent Studios, Street Level Photo Works, The Russian Cultural Centre and the Transmission Gallery. Boasting two floors of exhibition spaces and four floors of galleries, workshops, artists’ studios and production spaces, the emphasis here is on collaboration and growth.
Gallery director Malcolm Dickson’s Street Level Photo Works is showcasing the photographs of John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins as part of the opening, a fitting celebration of counter-culturalism and visual art’s capacity for capturing the moment.
‘The great thing about the Trongate project is that it recognises the importance of the city’s independent visual art sector,’ says Dickson. ‘Its aim is to provide a secure base for the development of the visual arts in Glasgow, its artists and its audiences.’
Dickson hopes having so much talent under one roof will encourage collaborations between artists and communities: ‘Everybody has their own space; there’s no hierarchy. Everyone just likes the same thing: art. That can, you hope, create a very exciting window for ideas and collaborations. Besides that, there are lots of bridges being built between here and other communities in the city: that’s an important, vital thing.’
The extraordinary array of differently sized and lit studios, workspaces and production facilities (all selected by the artists themselves) affords 200 artists the scope to work in the building at any one time; while literally thousands of participants of all and any abilities can use the public access facilities.
The space will also play a key role in some of the city’s festivals, namely the Merchant City Festival, which kicks off this fortnight. Better still, being light on pretension, the space is designed to encourage us, the punters, to go, wander and simply enjoy the range on view.
Artist Donald Urquhart, who has created four public art works for the space, believes the creation of Trongate 103, in its new guise, is just the beginning. ‘So often the history is one of arts migrating. But the transformation here is actually astonishing. I was asked by Wasps to give a talk last year, and I was keen to say we shouldn’t be too congratulatory about where we’ve got to, because on the trajectory where we’ve got to is extraordinary but it’s still just below where we should be at. It’s about always pressing on and expecting more. We should be looking at where we are going to next in the arts. Hopefully this building can only contribute to that.’
For full programme details see www.trongate103.com