Art & Design Employability



Live / external projects


Students are involved in work or projects with individuals/organisations outside of their institution. These can be existing projects that are opened up to students, student-specific projects set up by an external party or projects initiated by the student(s) or institution in collaboration with an external partner.


Time management, organisation, research, development and planning, ability to communicate with people of various ages, capacities and backgrounds, understanding of working in different contexts, self-discipline and independence.

Example 1

Project Title: Prison Placement Project
Student Name: Catriona Reid with Chris Silver 
School/Department: Sculpture and Environmental Art 
Year of study: Three
Project Length:  Eight weeks
Project Location: HMP Greenock


The overarching aim of this project was to place students in a learning setting within prisons across Scotland, for them to teach prisoners and learn about how art can function within the most restrictive of environments. Establishing a relationship between Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Motherwell College and Sculpture and Environmental Art.

For this particular exercise, the aim was to move away from individualistic working and create a group work that encouraged communication and the sharing of ideas.

What happened:

This project was new and unprecedented. Students volunteered to take part, and underwent training through SPS and Motherwell College, via staff located within the learning centres. This was done with support from the department and fellow students.

This project, involving two students, was devised for an art class within Greenock prison. Greenock prison has both men and women, which is a unique environment. They never met each other within the learning unit, but shared the same resources.

Taking limitations on time into account, sessions were one full day a week, with three classes. Class sizes varied from one week to the next; generally, there were between four and ten people in a class. The men were the first class of the day, then the women, then the men again. This meant that the women saw the men’s work and the men saw the women’s work.

Participants were asked to draw in a way they had not done before. On the first day, rather than crouching over a piece of paper without talking to each other, they stood up, paper on the wall and drew at arm’s length. As this change was enacted, a discussion was prompted about each other’s work.

The project evolved from this point. Materials were limited – no clay, no Blu-tack, no silver paper could be used. Clothed figure-drawing was initiated, with the students taking turns to stand on a table as the model. The students took in fruit/veg/chocolate for still life drawings, which was then eaten. They used various materials, including charcoal, paint, pastels, pens, pencils, exploring different mark-making techniques. Throughout every class, discussion was provoked about artists and what art could be.

The result of these sessions was a vast amount of excellent drawings, produced by people who, in the first class, had claimed not to be able to draw. Towards the end of our placement, the students brought in rolls of paper that they laid on the table for the learners to draw on together, creating a group work. This gave rise to a large body of collaborative work which, in itself, was an accomplishment not to be underestimated. This was displayed within the visitor centre in the prison. However, the rich conversations and critiques that emerged from the class were considered to be the greatest success.

In July 2013, a presentation day was hosted in which each group presented the projects they had produced. This was attended by all the students involved, teaching staff from all the prisons involved, staff from Motherwell College and staff from the Sculpture and Environmental Art department. This gave everyone the opportunity to see what other groups had done in the other prisons.

External or internal partners involved:

Sculpture and Environmental Art, Motherwell College and the Scottish Prison Service

Project outcomes:

Varied and fantastic work was produced at every prison. The Greenock prison project built on skills that learners already had and revealed new confidence in drawing and communicating ideas to a group.

The result of these sessions was a vast amount of excellent drawings, some of them produced collaboratively, which marked the transition from an individualistic approach to group work.

Work was displayed within the visitor centre in the prison, and learners invited their families to the exhibition.

Skills students gained from undertaking the project:

Students gained a unique insight into the ways in which art can function within the most restrictive of environments. In practical terms, communication and organisation of material, time and ideas between students, learners and staff within prison taught students how to effectively negotiate very complex situations.

More specifically, the skills gained included:

Negotiation – in planning lessons and liaising with the art teacher, in a bid to deliver the lessons that students wanted to in a way that was possible within the constraints of the environment; in creating a lesson plan that the learners were excited by but that would not exclude anyone; in moving away from the familiar tattoo art style or scroll drawing.

Time management – in relation to the above and being punctual; all time was important. The routine is rigid, and the learners would never be late, so students couldn’t be either.

Observation – understanding the situation that the learners were in.

Patience – it takes time for people to feel comfortable trying new things. Standing up and drawing is a lot to ask of someone who is used to leaning over their work on a table and maintaining privacy.

Identifying progress – people asked more questions, stood up without being asked or felt encouraged and loosened up their drawing; people became able to talk about the work of their peers.

Confidence in what art can do – through discussing work by other artists, it became clear what people can do together, making a loud statement with a gentle collective action.


Example 2

Project Title: Contemporary Responses to J.D. Fergusson
Student Name: Jamie Limond
School/Department: Fine Art – Painting and Printmaking
Year of study: Three
Project Length:  12 weeks approx. culminating in an exhibition April–June 2014
Project Location: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) Archive and Library, Edinburgh


Third-year Painting and Printmaking students from GSA were asked to produce a book work, multiple, performance, text, drawing, print or object in response to any aspect of J.D. Fergusson’s work, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) Archive and Library’s Fergusson exhibition or the space of the Gabrielle Keiller archive and library. The project culminated in the submission of works for display in the Keiller Library within the Modern Two building, in April 2014.

The aim of the project was to highlight the relevance to contemporary practice of work by early 20th century artists, enabling students to contextualise their own work in relation to art history, whether in celebration, reverence or subversion.

What happened:

In January 2014, students interested in making work for this project were given a tour of SNGMA’s Fergusson exhibition and introduced to possible areas of interest in the artist’s life and work. They were also given access to the gallery’s archives and given a chance to get a feel for the space of the Keiller Library, where the work would eventually be exhibited.

The library space is more like a museum or archive than a gallery, with display cases etc. It was expected that some students would wish to make work sympathetic to such a space and so a book-making workshop was organised by the GSA Printmaking Department in February. Final submission of works for the exhibition occurred in March, with the exhibition opening on 2 April 2014.

This particular project involved a response to Fergusson’s seemingly formulaic approach to painting the female figure (problematic from a contemporary perspective) and the feeling of a need for space and air in his densely packed opulent canvases. This began by dividing a reproduction of one of his paintings into squares, then, through a set of arbitrary formulae, making abstract transpositions of the colours used in the squares on pieces of graph paper. These were brought together with the formulae texts in a concertina-folded book, using the etching press to make embossed frames for the pieces of graph paper. In this way, the final work responded to both the nature of the library/archive and to Fergusson’s notorious habit of charging inflated prices for his works (embossing makes the work much more commercially seductive). The work, though, was mainly conceived as an attempt to give air to the paintings.

External or internal partners involved:

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA)

Project outcomes:

A book work exhibited in the Keiller Library of the Modern Two building as a response to the work of J.D. Fergusson.

Skills students gained from undertaking the project:

Several practical/professional skills were gained from taking part in the project. In practical terms, quite complicated book-making problems had to be resolved. For example, in making a concertina with embossments on every page, a complex method of feeding paper half way into the press, taking it out, flipping it and working from the centre outwards needed to be found, so as not to flatten any of the existing embossments. There was also the pressure of making sure measurements were exact, folds crisp, prints consistent and that the work remained totally dirt free – all conditions that were professionally important when displaying in such a public and prestigious establishment.

In professional terms, there was a need to be aware of size restrictions in display cases, light levels, etc. For most students, this was a first introduction to displaying work at such a high level, working to an external organisation’s brief and communicating intentions to an outside party in the form of statements and instructions about the mode of display.

In the event, the students’ installation instructions were carried out to the letter by the gallery, and they felt gratified to have such a degree of control over an exhibition which ran for more than two months.

Example 3

Project Title: Public Art Project: Queens Cross Housing Association
Student Name: Michael Barr
School/Department: Sculpture and Environmental Art 
Years of study: Three
Project Length:  From briefing to site visits: seven weeks (though the project under discussion here is ongoing)
Project Location: Students chose a ‘site’ (in an expanded sense of the word) in the context of Queens Cross Housing Association (QCHA). Geographically, this could be approximately mapped onto the area of North Glasgow covered by QCHA’s housing stock.

This project was on a patch of waste ground off Cedar Street, G20 7NR, and in the surrounding blocks of flats.


The brief required students to ‘produce and install a resolved, publicly sited work… that relates to a wider audience, in a context beyond GSA’ and to ‘create a document of the work/project… which can be used in the future to represent’ the work.

The principal aim of this particular project was to test the position of a white, educated, middle class, English, male artist, intervening in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland. This aim was taken up with reference to ideas surrounding the ethics and politics of ‘socially‐engaged’ art practices.

What happened:

Eight consecutive days were spent on site, building a structure loosely based on the form of a doocot (a dovecot, or pigeon-hut). This was done neither with permission from any authority nor endorsement from the surrounding residents. During the build, approximately 50 residents engaged the student in conversation.

After completion (on 22 February 2014), the structure was opened on five consecutive days, with the student sitting in or next to it. Otherwise, it has been closed and remains in situ; it is not intended to be permanent.

On 27 March, flyers were distributed to approximately 350 flats in the immediate vicinity, inviting residents to attend ‘a drop-­in session for discussion’ the following day. The aim was to gather a small group of residents who were interested in working with others and with the student, to co-­author and realise a project. The first meeting of interested parties took place on Monday 14 April.

Four subsequent meetings were held. The eventual working group numbered three people who attended every meeting. Aside from the student, the two other attendees were residents of the tower blocks on Cedar Street. Meetings generally lasted for one hour; initially they were held in a space provided by QCHA; latterly they were held in the flat of one of the attendees. Initially, the meetings were purely conversational. Conversations were recorded, and many aspects of the social, economic and political landscape (in many senses) were discussed, alongside the possibilities of working together to make creative interventions in that landscape. As time progressed, meetings became more focused on the specifics of co-authoring an artistic intervention in the immediate environs. At the time of writing, the thinking around the project is that the intervention will involve installing some kind of text or texts in or around the QCHA housing stock at Cedar Street, although the content and material specifics of the idea are still under discussion.

External or internal partners involved:

QCHA arranged a day in January on which the student shadowed the estate caretakers and facilitated the booking of a community space for drop‐in sessions/meetings.

The student cultivated a relationship with the estate caretakers at Cedar Street, who provided assistance of many kinds. As the project developed, the caretakers at Cedar Street offered:

  • advice on the social and infrastructural nature of the local context,
  • the use of toilet facilities,
  • the use of tea and coffee making facilities, and access to drinking water
  • storage space in which tools and materials could be stored,
  • access to unwanted materials, which made up approximately 80% of the sculptural form that was constructed,
  • use of a number of tools.

The caretakers also kept a CCTV camera trained on the site, which satisfied the requirements of GSA’s lone working policy. They were also very friendly. The student wrote an article for the QCHA magazine, in which the caretakers were thanked for their assistance.

Project outcomes:

  • the construction of a sculptural form in public space,
  • photographic documentation of this physical process,
  • written documentation of the accompanying social processes,
  • an arranged meeting to be held with a small group of residents to discuss the co‐authoring of a project.


  • documentation of the dismantling of the sculptural form,
  • a document which frames the construction and dismantling process as an artwork,
  • as-­yet unspecified outcomes arising from a co-­authoring process.

Skills students gained from undertaking the project

Few practical skills have been gained over the course of the project. However, the student’s thinking around approaches to socially-­engaged has developed as follows:

A more concrete understanding of the heterogeneity of the lives of those who live in the local area;
Increased confidence in the possibility of working sensitively and productively in a context which it not necessarily fully understood;

Increased confidence in the strategy of honestly and openly fulfilling artistic needs, as a foundation from which to begin to think about working with other people’s needs;
A fuller appreciation of the possibilities of the document, in the framing of an action, and the translation of that action into something of broader cultural meaning.

Video Interviews

Creative Ad – 2nd Year – Tinashé Mika

Working on coursework can often feel like a box ticking exercise with learning objectives. Creative live briefs are a great way of making these objective as relevant, to post University life, as possible.

Spatial Design – 3rd Year – Natalie Parkins

Creative collaboration brings different artists together. Natalie goes one step further describing the benefits of an inter-school collaborative project.

Related Pages

The Studio

Visual Literacy