Gordon Munro leaving reflections

After 36 years at ESW, Assistant Director Gordon Munro is preparing to leave in December 2022 and reflects on his time here as the organisation has evolved over the years.

Dear Friends, 

As many of you may already know I will be leaving my role as Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop’s Assistant Director in December. I leave the role with ESW now an influential leading institution excellently placed to support artists and local communities through the multitude of facilities and experiences it provides. 

When I first became involved with ESW in 1986 it was as part of the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop Group who met in a local school in the evening to plan how we might secure a building and funding to provide safe and affordable space for making sculpture. At that point it was beyond our wildest dreams that these embryonic meetings would ultimately lead to the creation of a building of such international standing. In the beginning there were no staff at all and all aspects of running the organisation were voluntary. However, it was soon clear that staff were essential to allow the artists to get on with making art and enable the organisation to fulfil all the tasks necessary to run a professional workshop. I was fortunate to be one of the first technicians employed with my inaugural job being to build the studios at Albion Road. I eventually took on the role of Workshop Manager at the Hawthornvale site and finally in 2003, was appointed Assistant Director with specific tasks relating to delivering ESW’s new building and its associated activities. In the early days I also served as an ESW Director and as Chair of the Board of Directors. So, I have been fortunate to have had many insights into the life of ESW and see the staff cohort evolve to meet ESW’s needs, something that, as with all forward-thinking organisations, remains an ongoing process.

In this long journey I have been privileged to be part of the everchanging teams that passed on the baton of ambition from one to the next. It is difficult to single out any one person in this process however the part Bill Scott played in helping to establish the first purpose built open access sculpture facility in the UK cannot be underestimated. Bill’s relentless work and belief in the new building provided a guiding light for staff and artists alike, particularly during the most testing times. We were all united in our determination to set new standards for artists’ provision, and this started by benchmarking against the newly purpose-built Nordisk Kunstnarsenter in Dale, Norway that we visited to gather ideas. With the subsequent appointment of the dynamic architecture firm of Sutherland Hussey the new ESW began to take shape and in June 2012 the building opened to the public. It’s satisfying to know that our early vision has been more than achieved.

However, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop is not a building, it is an ideology, a creative force shaped by the activity of all who are part of it. A community of communities that work side by side interacting, learning and most of all making art. Over the 36 years I have been involved with ESW I have had many colleagues and worked with many artists without whose efforts and contributions ESW certainly would not have the reputation it enjoys today. There have been many high points along the way; learning our Lottery Application was successful and winning the Art Prize for Edinburgh but equally seeing the many artworks created and projects completed alongside witnessing the growth of ESW’s highly respected Research and Learning programmes. Add to this our ever-growing list of partner organisations, meeting international guests and of course the many friends, uncountable parties and social gatherings punctuating every year. Although ESW’s previous buildings at Albion Road and Hawthornvale were not perfectly suited to our needs the energies of the artists and staff more than compensated for this and it is this vitality that has sustained the organisation through the most difficult periods in its history. It should also be said that none of the above would have been possible without support from The City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland and the belief shared by key individuals from these bodies in ESW’s vision.

It is not with a heavy heart that I write this, although I will be leaving my role as Assistant Director, I certainly will not be leaving ESW, I don’t know if that is even possible. This change of direction will allow me more time to focus on my own artistic practice, using ESW’s world- class technical facilities and redoubling my involvement in ESW’s social events. So, I look forward to future meetings in the workshop and sharing thoughts over a cup of tea or perhaps a beer later…

Many thanks for your friendship and support over the years.

Stay safe and creative,