Aberdeen in a ‘unique position’ to thrive, says Dean of Gray’s

Wednesday 31 May 2023

Dean of Gray's School of Art, Libby Curtis
In an interview with the Press and Journal, Dean of Gray's School of Art, Libby Curtis, highlights how Aberdeen is in a ‘unique position’ to create a destination for people with fresh opportunities and a bright future for all, as it transitions towards a sustainable energy future.

We live in changing times, but how has economic, social and political turbulence affected Aberdeen’s cultural life? And how will it change in the future?

There can’t be many better placed to answer this than Libby Curtis.

She is stepping down as dean of Gray’s School of Art in December after a 31-year association with the school.

She spoke to the P&J about Aberdeen’s changing cultural sector, leading one of the country’s oldest fine arts institutions through a pandemic, and her positivity about the future – including the much-maligned Union Street.

"Aberdeen is a very different city compared to 20 years ago.

“There’s far greater connectivity between all the different artistic bodies in the city.

“Whether that’s NuartSpectra City MovesPeacock Visual Arts, the Aberdeen Art Gallery – there’s much greater partnership happening now.

“There’s also greater connectivity with the city council, such as the things we’ve been doing recently with Look Again.

“There’s more artist spaces in the city. Deemouth Artist Studios, who we’ve been working very closely with, they’ve now had significant traction on the high street with Edit.

“And that’s through partnership between Aberdeen City Council and ourselves, creating spaces for artists to work in and to show their work.

“Partnership I think is really fundamental. People really willing to work together to create a community of arts and culture. That’s really important, and I think that will continue.”


"Aberdeen is in a 'unique position': the transition away from oil and gas presents opportunities.

"One charge that has long been levelled at Aberdeen is that, with its reliance on the oil industry, it’s something of a ‘one horse town’.

"With the transition away from oil and gas, there’s a sense of uncertainty in the Granite City."

But Libby sees the positives. The chance for other aspects of the area, which perhaps stood in oil’s shadow, to come to the fore.

“When I first came to Aberdeen it was all about oil. And I’m not saying that’s not there, we’re still very important in that sector.

“But there are other conversations now going on about transition, tourism, health, and about the connectivity of all those things.

“I think we’re in a unique position.

“We’re on the coast, we’re near to amazing countryside. There’s opportunities for food, art and landscape to become intertwined.

“We just need to get the narrative right so that we can speak about culture and create a destination for people.

“It’s not just about retail and spending. We have some beautiful buildings and spaces.”

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