My own passion and commitment to arts and culture at Stirling builds on the legacy of the University’s first Principal, Dr Tom Cottrell (1967-1973). It was his vision which led to the foundation of the Art Collection, which in the intervening years has grown to be of international significance and has recently achieved museum status. Like Dr Cottrell, I recognise that art and culture should be part of the everyday experience at the University. He believed our artworks should be accessible to all, and those of us who work, study or visit here are surrounded by a substantial collection of uplifting and beautiful works of art.
It was this philosophy that prompted the original decision to budget for works of art to enhance the developing campus; indeed 1% of the cost of each new building was earmarked for art to decorate it in the first phase of University building. In these early days, site-specific works were commissioned and an excellent example of this is the wall mounted steel sculptural panel by Mary Martin which was originally commissioned for the Pathfoot Dining Room and now hangs in the Crush Hall.
In the late sixties and early seventies, purchases were made chiefly from galleries such as the Waddington in London (which also donated a number of prints), the Compass Gallery in Glasgow and the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. The fine works collected in that period include paintings by Patrick Heron, Sir Robin Philipson, Michael Tyzack and Jon Schueler and sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi and Justin Knowles.
A major print collection was also developed, including work by Norman Ackroyd, Robyn Denny, Terry Frost, John Hoyland, Willie Rodger, Elizabeth Frink, Patrick Caulfield, Pierre Celice, Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Imms, John Brunsdon, Graham Sutherland.
The Art Collection has in addition received two large and valuable gifts during its history.
The first was of fourteen works by the Scottish Colourist painter J.D. Fergusson. This was presented to Stirling by the artist's lifelong partner Margaret Morris in 1968.
The second was a gift of fifteen paintings and three sculptures given to the University in 1997 as part of the Scottish Arts Council Bequest.
The Art Collection also holds several works created by artists associated with the Cornish town of St Ives.
More recently our policy has been to focus exclusively on Scottish contemporary art, and the collection now includes works by:
Calum Colvin, Brigid Collins, Adrian Wiszniewski, Sandy Moffat, Philip Braham, Alan Davie, Wilhelmina Barns Graham, Lotte Glob, Alan Davie, Lys Hansen, Helen Denerley and Kate Downie.
The majority of the artworks on display are concentrated in the Pathfoot Building with its light airy courtyards and multi level concourse, with sculpture also spread throughout the scenic campus.
The Art Collection at the University is a varied one comprising of over 700 works including paintings, sketches, tapestries, sculpture and silver.
In 2017, the University celebrated its 50th anniversary. As part of this, a blog was created entitled 'Realising the Vision: 50 years of collecting at the University of Stirling' which you can read at https://realisingthevision.stir.ac.uk
In addition, throughout the pandemic, we wrote weekly blogs on https://archives.wordpress.stir.ac.uk which took a more in depth look at the Art Collection.