Case Study: Sculpture Placement Group’s ‘Gumtree for the Arts’

25th November 2020

Screenshot of icons depicting categories of items available through CAN: materials, skills, time, etc.

Sculpture Placement Group have recently developed CAN (Circular Arts Network), an online sharing website for artists and arts organisations, technicians, theatre-makers and craftspeople, developed in partnership with Scottish Contemporary Art Network. Kate Robertson, Co-Director of Sculpture Placement Group, tells us about developing this 'Gumtree for the arts'.

CAN (Circular Arts Network) was designed as a sustainable way for people to give away or sell arts materials, equipment, studio furniture and even share transport or exchange skills.

Artists and the arts sector are facing an incredibly tough economic situation right now. At the same time we all face the challenge of climate change and the need to make decisive and radical changes to create a sustainable economy.

Even though we’ve only just got started, there seems to be tremendous support for CAN precisely because it enables the arts community to confront all these issues by giving access to free and affordable materials, as well as skills exchanges and transport sharing.

We planned to launch CAN in Scotland and then roll it out across the UK, but we had a number of messages from people asking if they can use it in their area – even from Spain! So we are just going for it – although spreading the word takes time and resources, so we expect it to be a while before it starts to gain traction in all areas.

CAN Logo (arrow in the shape of a circle) and title

A really exciting development is that we now have 2 major construction companies on board to pilot using CAN as a way to avoid some of their surplus materials going to waste. We’re really excited to see what kind of materials they share, and fully expect more firms to join once we have the first pilots running well. 

CAN has been operating since September and we have had 240 items listed, and 345 people registering. In our first 2 weeks CAN facilitated the reuse of 100kgs of mixed waste that would otherwise have gone into landfill or been recycled.

Items included rubber silicone, fabric, furniture, clay, wooden crates and chicken wire. These materials could just as easily have gone into landfill but through CAN have gone onto have a second life – with the potential for multiple subsequent lives. We are promoting reuse of such items and materials as it preserves the embodied energy that was used to make the original item and creates less air and water pollution than making something new or recycling.

David Batchelor in front of colourful, intricate sculptures

David Batchelor in his studio, Photo by Lucy Dawkins Courtesy of the Artist and Ingleby, Edinburgh

To help understand the benefits of the project, we spoke with various artists whose work aligns with the aims of CAN. The image above is of artist David Batchelor, who often uses offcuts and repurposed plastic objects in his work, many of which he finds in his searches around the streets of London. You can watch or read the interview on the Sculpture Placement Group website. 

CAN was developed by Sculpture Placement Group in partnership with SCAN (Scottish Contemporary Art Network), and we have seven Friends, including Zero Waste Scotland, V&A Dundee and Glasgow School of Art. We are partnering with ReSet Scenery going forwards to support each other’s initiatives, and are currently discussing other ways to network the resources of Scotland’s arts sector to support circular practices. Green Arts members can email me at info@canarts.org.uk if they’d like to get involved. But first, please register with canarts.org.uk and make a listing today!

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We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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