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Amy Gear and Daniel Clark – Plugging the Gap With Gaada

When Daniel Clark and Amy Gear decided they wanted to open their own arts space in Shetland, they saw their ambitions as filling a gap in terms of studio and workshop provision on the Scottish islands. When they took over a former Methodist church on Burra, they acknowledged that aim by calling the new centre Gaada, which in Shetland dialect means ‘gaps’, and is a word Gear heard growing up on the island of Yell. It can also refer to a type of potato with holes in that became their logo.

 Clark and Gear founded Gaada in 2018 after meeting while studying printmaking at the Royal College of Art. After graduating, Clark initially took a job at RCA, while Gear moved home, where a lack of studio spaces on the islands prompted the pair to take matters into their own hands. 


“When I came home I worked as a freelance artist, running workshops and things like that with no studio,” Gear recalls. “There are no studios in Shetland, so it was quite hard work, and every time Daniel visited, we would look at all the abandoned buildings that we could find and we'd look in the windows and, and we eventually saw this empty church, up the road from where I was living. We contacted the Methodist church, and said we were looking for a studio, and would they be interested in renting it to us.”


At the time theduo took the space over after Clark moved to Shetland, there was no phone line in the building, and initial renovations were done out of their own pocket as they developed the idea of just having their own studio to making it a more public resource. 


Set up as a not for profit Community Interest Company, Gaada now provides vital studio space and other facilities for Shetland’s artistic community, as well as hosting exhibitions and running workshops. With a strong community focus to Clark and Gear’s work as the centre’s co-directors, the last year has seen Gaada initiate Safeland, a wide ranging programme that has included collaborations with primary school children, and an exhibition, Surface, Sound and Sign, by artist Brian Sinclair. 


Throughout this summer, Gaada hosts the second part of a collaborative exhibition by Ellie Coutts and Cameron Morgan. This is in association with Project Ability in Glasgow. The first instalment, Text-isles, ran at Project Ability’s Trongate base during March and April, with the second exhibition, Critters Creepers Crawlers, Sprouting Solitary Soarers, now showing at Gaada.


Reflecting on the venture’s progress, Gear says“We're getting to the point now where we have employees, which is wonderful, because of the volume of things that we need to do in Shetland, and the demand for what we do. We've got waiting lists, which is wonderful, but also horrible because we want to be able to reach everybody who asks to be reached.” 

Gaada is currently in the process of buying their current premises, and have ambitions to spread their net wider. Connections are being developed with arts organisations in Norway and there are also long term plans to develop a purpose-built site for Gaada, designed in partnership with Turner Prize winning collective, Assemble, with the current premises retained as what Clark calls an incubation space for artists.


“I don't want to get too conceptual about having a potato as a symbol,” he says, “but when you plant a seed potato, it nourishes the soil around it, and there are loads of offshoots, and that's really how we think about Gaada. We don't want to be the only arts organisation here. We want to exist amongst a whole ecosystem of amazing creative projects and people, and if we can help that process along, that's great.” 


Critters Creepers Crawlers, Sprouting Solitary Soarersby Ellie Coutts and Cameron Morgan runs at Gaada, Shetland until July 31st.

Scottish Art News, June 2022




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