Art school graduate’s film donated to Holyrood art collection

The film was inspired by the creation of the world's first geodesic dome by American architect Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s. Picture: Contributed
The film was inspired by the creation of the world's first geodesic dome by American architect Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s. Picture: Contributed
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A FILM made by one of the students affected by the devastating blaze at Glasgow School of Art has been donated to the Scottish Parliament.

Lydia Levett’s video work was made at one of the nation’s most significant abandoned buildings, the former St Peter’s Seminary, at Cardross, in Argyll.

The film was inspired by the creation of the world’s first geodesic dome by American architect Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s,

It was made at the modernist masterpiece, which is being restored and turned into a major new arts centre, using a special bursary awarded to help students who lost work in last year’s fire.

It has been added to the permanent art collection at Holyrood, which already boasts work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Christine Borland, Alison Watt, Callum Innes, John Bellany, and Thomas Joshua Cooper.

Ms Levett’s film, “It’s ok to fail,” was part chosen by the art school from an exhibition of work created thanks to the “Phoenix Bursary” programme, which was funded to the tune of £750,000 by the Scottish Government.

Final year students lost out on the traditional launchpad for their careers when the fire broke out last May during final preparations for the annual degree show.

The bursary scheme allowed them to be offered 15 weeks studio time, an allowance towards their living expenses, up to 30 hours supervision by an academic tutor and a budget for materials to either replace lost work or create brand new art.

Mr Levett was able to base herself at the Whisky Bond studios complex in Glasgow after graduating and has also had a residence at St Ninian’s High School, in Kirkintilloch.

GSA principal Tom Inns the work had been donated to the parliament in recognition of the political support the art school has had since the fire in the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building, which destroyed its iconic library.

The Scottish Government has pledged up to £5 million in match-funding to support efforts to restore the building, which are expected to cost up to £35 million.

Professor Inns said: “Without the Scottish Government the Phoenix Bursary programme would not have been possible.”

Ms Levett said: “It’s a huge privilege that my work is to be part of the Scottish Parliament’s art collection. I was amazed to learn that my video had been selected as the work which the GSA was to gift.”

Tricia Marwick, Holyrood’s presiding officer, said: “This gift represents a significant addition to the Scottish Parliament’s art collection and a unique opportunity to celebrate the many positive outcomes achieved through the Phoenix Bursary scheme.”

An official investigation into the fire - which caught hold at lunchtime on 23 May last year - found it was triggered by flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam. They were set alight when they came into contact with the hot surface of a film projector in a studio being used by a student, who has never been identified.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service report also revealed that the rapid spread of the fire through the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building, which dates back to 1909, was aided by the presence of original ventilation ducts and a large number of timber-lined walls.

A new fire-prevention system was in the latter stages of completion and was not operational on the day. Forensic archaeologists began a painstaking sift through the iconic building, including the remains of the library, in November. It later emerged that 90 oil paintings, including two by Mackintosh himself, and around 8000 books and journals had been lost in the fire.

Work began in May of this year to transform the neglected remains of St Peter’s Seminary, where priests were trained in the 1960s and 1970s, into a world-class cultural centre.

It is finally set to get a new lease of life almost 30 years after the building was abandoned and left to suffer neglect and vandalism.

Plans are already emerging for what is widely regarded as the country’s finest “modernist” building to play host to Scotland’s national performing arts companies, pop and rock concerts, visual arts exhibitions and festivals.