A specially commissioned triptych portrait was presented to the Provost of Inverness when she officially opened the first major creative hub in the Highlands.

The painting shows Councillor Helen Carmichael from three slightly different angles and is the work of David Fallow, one of the first artists to take up a studio at the new Inverness Creative Academy.

Artists and makers began moving in towards the end of last year after the £2.2m restoration and renewal of the Midmills Buildings’ arts and science extension that was formerly part of the Inverness Royal Academy and later Inverness College.

The official opening set the seal on the first phase of a wider scheme by Wasps Artists’ Studios and has created affordable workspaces for 39 artists and makers

David’s portrait echoes another triptych (artist unknown), which shows civil engineer and one-time Inverness Royal Academy student Joseph Mitchell, and hangs behind the Provost’s desk.

It will join a group of paintings of significant figures from the area’s past, such as Sir Henry Raeburn’s portrait of John Mackintosh, who was Provost at the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th.

The official opening and presentation took place yesterday (Thursday, 28 March) when friends, supporters and partners toured the building and met some of the new tenants. 

They also learned more about the plans for Phase 2 of the £5.7 million project which will offer 54 desk spaces for cultural and social enterprises and creative businesses, plus a public café. 

Speaking about his new work David said: “It’s been a fascinating portrait to paint. Helen is a lovely person, but she has an inner strength that I have tried to bring into the finished work.

“As you enter her office you are confronted by the superb Raeburn. But what really caught my eye was the triptych of Joseph Mitchell. It’s a beautiful piece of work and I thought it would be interesting to do another one that would act as a counterpoint.”

David, who was commissioned to paint the portrait by Wasps, has previously created a triptych of Germaine Greer.

City Leader Councillor Helen Carmichael originally became Provost in 2015 and was the first woman to hold the post in its 600-year history. She was re-elected in 2017.

She said:“I was delighted to be invited to open the first phase of Inverness Creative Academy. It is wonderful to see the energy that the artists have brought to a building that has always played an important role in the life of the region. 

“I now look forward to delivery of Phase 2 which will complete this wonderful complex for the benefit of creative people across the Highlands, allowing them to stay in the region and practise their art.

“I am also honoured to have a ‘present Provost portrait’ painted by David Fallow. It will take pride of place in the Provost office in Inverness Town House.”

The vacant Midmills site has been redeveloped thanks to a collaboration between Highland Council, Wasps and a private housebuilder. The total investment of £15 million has transformed it into a new residential and creative community in the heart of the city.

The Inverness Creative Academy project also sits within a wider set of initiatives to enhance cultural business and tourism across the Highlands, including finding new uses for Inverness Castle. 

As one of the largest developments of its kind outsidethe Central Belt it is expected to lead to 109 full-time equivalent jobs generating annual wage earnings of £2.7 million.

Like many Wasps initiatives it adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. At one level it is about affordable, quality space to work, exhibit and run classes and workshops. At another it is a place to experiment, collaborate and cross-fertilise. 

Audrey Carlin, Wasps Chief Executive Officer, said: “The official opening is a proud moment for us and a chance to thank all of the team, partners and supporters who have helped our plan for the first major creative hub in the Highland to become a reality.

“We want this project to play a truly significant role in developing the arts and cultural economy of the Highlands – offering opportunities to creative people of all kinds.

“It seems fitting that we marked the opening by presenting the Provost with a portrait that will become part of the city’s art collection and that has been painted by one of the first artists to take up one of the new studios.

“Next comes Phase 2 and we look forward to a close and continued partnership with the council and all the others who have helped us reach this stage.”

Wasps already provides good-quality studios, workshops, offices and other facilities for 900 creative people in centres from The Borders to Shetland.

The Creative Academywill be a major plus for Highlands, helping the region tap into the growing importance of the creative industries, which generates £3.7 billion a year for the Scottish economy and provides 73,600 jobs.

This is in line with HIE’s ambition for the creative sector to account for 7% of the region’s economic activity – equalling the Scottish average.

The Creative Academyproject in brief:

The facilities that will be provided include: 

  • 39 studios for artists and makers 

  • 54 workspaces for creative industries and cultural social 

  • Public café within the restored former assembly hall 

  • Public exhibition, events and workshop spaces 

Benefits to Inverness and the Highlands: 

  • Two significant listed buildings, in the centre of Inverness saved and reused
  • Provision of the only creative hub in the Highlands
  • Economic activity to the city centre
  • Support for, and retention of, creative talent in the Highlands
  • Opportunities for collaborative working, skills sharing and networking
  • Public access to historic buildings and community creative activity programmes
  • Improved appearance of local area.

Picture by Paul Campbell

– Ends –

About Wasps

  • Wasps stands for Workshop and Artists’ Studio Provision Scotland Ltd. It was established in 1977.
  • The ethos behind Wasps is that while art can enrich communities and society by inspiring, educating, entertaining and transforming people’s lives, many artists and arts organisations with the talent and ability to achieve this often struggle to work and fulfil their potential because their low incomes make workplace rents prohibitive. Wasps was therefore set up to provide good quality, affordable studio space to enable artists and creative bodies to carry out their work.
  • Wasps studios are all across Scotland – and as far apart as Shetland and Kirkcudbright.  The sites are: Aberdeen (Langstane Place Studios and Shore Lane Studios), Dundee (Meadow Mill Studios), Edinburgh (Albion Road Studios in Leith, Patriothall in Stockbridge and West Park Place in Dalry), Glasgow (Dovehill in Gallowgate, Hanson Street in Dennistoun, South Block and The Briggait, (both in The Merchant City), Orkney (Stromness Studios),  Irvine (The Courtyard), Kirkcudbright (Canonwalls and Claverhouse), Nairn (Links Studios), Newburgh (The Steeple), Selkirk (St Mary’s Mill), Skye (The Admiral’s House) and Shetland (The Booth in Scalloway). 
  • In recent years the Scotland-wide organisation has been transformed from a small charity into one of the most successful bodies of its type in Britain. In 2014 it was named Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year. It is highly unusual because it is self-financing in its day-to-day operations, normally only seeking loans or grants for capital projects.
  • Since 2015, Wasps have opened three other studio hubs in the Highlands including: Links Studios, Nairn, Stromness Studios, Orkney and The Admiral’s House, Skye 
  • For more see www.waspsstudios.org.uk/

WASPS – Workshop & Artists Studio Provision (Scotland) Limited is a charity registered in Scotland (SC001351). It is also a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC062117).

The Wasps Trust is a charity registered in Scotland (SC022115).

Workshop & Artists Studio Provision (Scotland) Limited is a charity registered in Scotland (SC001351). It is also a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC062117).

Wasps Creative Industries C.I.C. is a community interest company registered in Scotland (SC383609)

The registered office for the above entities is: The Briggait, 141 Bridgegate, Glasgow, G1 5HZ.