New future for Spring Fling

Spring Fling is evolving – Scotland’s premier open studios event is transforming into a new organisation dedicated to providing practical support for the visual art and craft sector.

A highly skilled temporary five-person Evolution Team is starting work to identify what visual artists, craft makers and arts organisations across Dumfries and Galloway want in order to thrive. A new company will then be set up to deliver for their needs.

The hugely successful annual Spring Fling art and craft open studios weekend will remain the flagship event for showcasing the abundance of high-quality work being produced in the region.

Leah Black, Spring Fling Director, said: “It’s been amazing to see how Spring Fling has grown into a big success story for Dumfries and Galloway, and for Scotland as a whole.

“We now want to take the next step and become a year-round operation which gives a wide range of practical help along with the creation and production of new programmes supporting the ambition of artists and makers at all stages of their careers. There is so much talent and potential here – we want to see it flourish.

“We also want to put even more emphasis on collaborating with other organisations to produce compelling events which showcase the artistic and cultural energy of this region.

“This really is evolution at work and for the next six months our new team will be working closely with people and organisations throughout the region to make sure our plans match their needs.”

One major change is likely to be that many people and groups which are not Spring Fling members will be able to benefit from its services. Providing support for all has become especially important because local authorities can no longer afford to employ arts officers.

In recent years Spring Fling has diversified in many directions which support and develop the arts. These have included mentoring to help young artists learn how to run a business; skills transfers; artists’ residencies; youth engagement projects; programmes to attract young D&G artists to return and work in the region; exhibitions across the UK to promote work from D&G; projects to pass on dying traditional craft skills to a new generation; digital development projects.

It is also a co-producer of EAFS (the Environmental Art Festival Scotland) which first took place last year will take place again in 2015.

The next step – which will establish a company with a new name in the summer of 2015 – is likely to bring greater involvement in these sorts of areas. Spring Fling also hopes to do more on an international stage – showcasing D&G visual art and craft overseas and bringing artists and makers into the area from abroad.

One strength of the region is that there are a range of excellent organisations working in different areas of the arts, such as The Stove Network, Wide Open and Wigtown Book Festival. There is also support from both Dumfries and Galloway Council and Creative Scotland – the Evolution project is funded through Creative Scotland’s Cultural Economy Fund and DG Unlimited. Spring Fling’s aim is to build and strengthen these relationships and to work closely with a range of partners.

The Evolution Team itself consists of people with immense experience working with communities, artists and organisations of many kinds. All belong to Collaborate Consulting, which won the Evolution project contract.

Catherine Murtagh, a member of the Evolution Team, said: “There is a phenomenal amount of creativity in Dumfries and Galloway. In the coming months we will be out there discovering what kind of practical support people and organisations need.

“Visual art and crafts play an increasingly important role in the life and economy of this part of Scotland. We want to strengthen this further to make sure people have the opportunities they need – and to help young people find fulfilling careers for the future.”

Evolution is being supported by funding from Creative Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and DG Unlimited.

Cathy Agnew, DG Unlimited chair of trustees, said: “Spring Fling goes from strength to strength each year, but what we are looking forward to now is real step change. It promises to bring very real benefits not just to artists and makers, but to the whole of our community.”

Helena Ward, Portfolio Manager at Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is supporting this time of transition for Spring Fling through its Cultural Economy Programme. The aim of our programme is to help the organisation develop a sustainable business and financial model which enables Spring Fling to evolve into a region-wide development agency for the visual arts and craft.”