AN ART lecturer who is being paid £15,000 of taxpayers’ money to not leave Glasgow for a year has seen her project disowned by her own university.
Ellie Harrison caused controversy earlier this year when it was revealed she had been awarded the money from Creative Scotland to stay in the city for 12 months as part of a performance piece - even though she already lives there.
The London-born experimental artist called her project The Glasgow Effect, a term that refers to its poor health record, and promoted it with an image of chips.
Miss Harrison, a lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, part of the University of Dundee, was accused of by critics of going on a middle-class “poverty safari” and of poking fun at the city’s poor diet and health record.
The University of Dundee logo initially featured on promotional materials for the project but these have now been removed and a university spokesman said they had no links with The Glasgow Effect.
He said: “The funding application to Creative Scotland was made personally by Ms Harrison and not through the offices of the university. We consider this to be an external project, which we have allowed Ms Harrison time to pursue.”
After the row emerged, the artist had suggested that the grant money would be paid directly to her employer in return for paid research leave.
But the university confirmed that this was not the case, saying: “We had an initial agreement with Ms Harrison to free her time for the project provided funds were forthcoming to cover her teaching time at the university.
“When these funds could not be provided, we extended the offer of a year of unpaid leave, with continuing pension provision, which allowed Ms Harrison to pursue her independent project.”
Writing in an online newsletter, Miss Harrison said the university had withdrawn its support for the project.
She wrote: “Having initially agreed to support this research project, the university has now requested that I take special leave, without pay, until December 31 in order to complete it.
“The university has also stated that because the ‘stipulated focus of the research contained within the original project application has partially shifted to include a critique of the university and the way in which it operates’ it will no longer support the project.
“The university’s name and logo has now been removed from where it appeared online. This will make for some interesting conversations about what can and cannot constitute ‘academic research’ when I return to teaching in 2017.
“It does mean, however, that it is now down to me to decide what to do with the money. What a responsibility that is. Without being too prescriptive, I intend to spend it in a way that allows me to explore two of my ongoing interests: asceticism and philanthropy, and the relationship between the two.
She added: “The irony of all this public attention is that to do meaningful, successful ‘community’ work of any sort you must put aside your ego and work in a collaborative low-key way. For that reason I will be keeping a low profile while I get on with the work for the rest of the year.”
The controversy generated thousands of negative comments on social media.
Among her critics was Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety who said: “Ellie’s project is centered on living in Glasgow and not leaving the city for a year. We can put her in touch with legions of single-parent families living in poverty who can tell her in minutes what it’s like to be poor in Glasgow.”
Creative Scotland has defended its decision to fund the scheme.
A spokesman said: “Ellie is a recognised artist and we will be interested to see how the project progresses.”