ATLAS Arts was founded in the summer of 2010 following research commissioned by HI~Arts via the Scottish Arts Council (now Creative Scotland). The research exercise had two aims: to explore the most appropriate way to deliver a visual arts program in Skye and Lochalsh, following the closure of An Tuireann Arts Centre; and to assist the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in its plans to develop its involvement in the arts.
The research project concluded in September 2009 with a well-attended public meeting in Broadford. At the meeting, a proposal to create a team to develop and deliver ambitious and innovative visual arts projects in Skye and Lochalsh was endorsed. To avoid the need to create a new organisation from scratch, and therefore to allow the team to focus exclusively on programming and building local and international networks, it was decided that the project would be hosted by HI~Arts.
Following the meeting, a steering group of interested individuals based in Skye and Lochalsh was put together to refine the project proposal and recruit staff for the team.
ATLAS has grown from the curatorial endeavour of founding director Emma Nicolson (now Head of Exhibitions at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh), to become an organisation recognised for the high quality of its work and the surprising ways in which it has engaged audiences.
In her time as ATLAS’s first Director Emma developed and delivered an integrated programme of exhibitions, performances, sound events, film programmes, including several award winning and innovative site specific public art projects across Skye and beyond. This varied and sophisticated programme of exhibitions, commissions and events took the work of and international calibre to an audience of 500,000 in Skye and beyond (against an original target of 5,000 per annum), establishing a respected position in Scotland’s cultural ecology. Emma also spent two years as a guest curator at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, a community focused hub for the arts, heritage and economic development.
Since ATLAS was founded, an important part of our work has been developing relationships with local business and cultural sectors, and within the community. This has helped us to develop sustainable models for the creation of site-specific projects that are genuinely collaborative and mindful of the economic, social and geographic particulars of the area.