Calton Hill observatory set for new galleries

The observatory is to be used as a gallery, while the Fruitmarket gallery, below, is receiving a  �1.4m boost. Picture: Kate Chandler
The observatory is to be used as a gallery, while the Fruitmarket gallery, below, is receiving a �1.4m boost. Picture: Kate Chandler
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TWO neglected buildings on top of Edinburgh’s Calton Hill are to be transformed into new art galleries after Creative Scotland announced a £900,000 grant for the project.

The Collective Gallery has ambitious plans to develop the City Observatory buildings over the next two years.

And the Fruitmarket gallery in Market Street is receiving £1.4 million towards a major refurbishment and extension.

The money is part of the annual round of funding for capital projects by the national arts body totalling nearly £10 million.

The Collective Gallery has already shut its base in Cockburn Street and relocated to the Calton Hill site, where it hopes to expand its work.

The first step was to move into the City Dome on the north side of the Observatory, a five-metre squared space which will house the gallery’s more established programme.

New offices and a dedicated space for the gallery’s New Work Scotland Programme will be created in the domed, central Playfair Building, which currently houses the observatory equipment.

And the Observatory’s inner gardens will be landscaped and the smaller dome spaces adapted into “residency pods“ for visiting artists.

Kate Gray, the gallery director, said: “We are in the old dome building at the moment but this funding will allow us to start refurbishing the observatory building for our next phase.”

Starting life as The Artists Collective Gallery, Collective was founded by a group of painters graduating from Edinburgh College of Art.

Its first home was on the High Street, before moving to Cockburn Street, across the road from Stills gallery.

Ms Gray has said Calton Hill’s “joint histories of stargazing and intellectual endeavour” make it an inspiring location for the work of forward-thinking contemporary artists.

The Fruitmarket gallery, close to the side entrance to Waverley Station, was renovated in 1994 by Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy .

But last year its director Fiona Bradley warned its future was “at risk” unless it was able to carry out a multi-million pound revamp in the next few years.

Plans proposed an extra storey on top of the existing building, which dates back to 1938.

Catherine Muirden, chair of the Fruitmarket, welcomed the grant announcement.

She said: “We are pleased and proud to have been awarded this money by Creative Scotland. Both the money, and the vote of confidence it implies, represent a major step forward in our drive to improve the gallery for all its audiences.”

Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer said: “These funding awards support important elements of the cultural infrastructure across Scotland and will enable exciting and important projects to progress and develop.

“All of these awards, and those that have come before, help to ensure that more people, in more parts of Scotland, can continue to access and enjoy excellent artistic and creative experiences.”