Rubbish art: how Scottish creatives are dreaming up new masterpieces and saving the planet

A new Scottish charity has been set up that is helping artists to create masterpieces while also protecting the environment.

The Circular Arts Network (CAN), based in Glasgow has been dubbed a Gumtree for the arts.

The organisation provides a forum for people and businesses to offer up scrap materials they want rid of for re-use by artists, sculptors, set-builders and other creatives.

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The National Theatre of Scotland, National Galleries Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh University are among 350 users who have already benefited from the network.

As well as helping struggling artists, the initiative is saving waste from being binned and ending up in landfill.

Artist Kate V Robertson, founder of CAN, said: “Our platform was set up to promote sustainability among the arts community by providing access to materials which would have otherwise gone to landfill.

“In our first two weeks we facilitated the re-use of 100kg of mixed waste and through our network these items have gone on to be used in a variety of projects, extending their lifespan.

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The Circular Arts Network provides a rich source of free material for artists such as Dundee's David Batchelor, who uses scrap plastic to create his work. Picture: Lucy Dawkins

“It’s great to have the support of such an influential property company and the construction team have so far been hugely accommodating to artists looking to collect these materials.”

Property developer and investment firm HFD Group, which is currently involved in a cutting-edge building project at 177 Bothwell Street in Glasgow, has become the first industry player to join the network.

The landmark office development in Bothwell Street, which will be run entirely on renewable power, is expected to attain the highest energy-efficiency performance score for a building of its type in Glasgow city centre.

The company has already donated materials including plasterboard, timber, insulation and surplus metal, which have been collected by local artists directly from the construction site and saved from disposal.

The items are being used to create sculptures, exhibitions, props and theatre sets as well contributing to a range of community projects.

Stephen Lewis, managing director of HFD Property Group, said: “We are proud to be working with CAN as part of an ongoing programme of support for the local communities that we work in.

“For many years HFD has been part of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, which is an industry-leading measure of our commitment to the local community, environment and workforce, and we have a number of initiatives in place to support a range of good causes.

Property development and investment firm HFD Group, which is currently involved in a cutting-edge building project at 177 Bothwell Street in Glasgow, has become the first industry player to join the Circular Arts Network

“Sustainability is hugely important to us and CAN’s circular principles are closely aligned with our ethos and existing efforts to reduce and reuse waste materials.

“We are looking forward to seeing some of the artworks that can be created using items that we might have otherwise considered to be waste material.”

Last year, the HFD Charitable Foundation launched the Community Anchors Fund in partnership with Virgin Money, which pledged £400,000 of grant funding for a range of community organisations and good causes in the Glasgow and Lanarkshire area.

The partnership with CAN furthers HFD’s commitment to supporting the local community.

Friends of CAN include the V&A Dundee, Zero Waste Scotland and Glasgow School of Art.

Laura Blair, sector manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “The Circular Arts Network is demonstrating the benefit of taking a creative approach with items that may well have been tossed aside.

“The more products we can reuse and recycle, the greater contribution we can make to reducing the carbon associated with manufacturing new items.

“We need to look at every area of our lives and reduce the volume of materials we use if we are going to address the climate crisis and reduce demand for finite natural resources.”

More information and lists of items available can be found on the CAN website.

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