Old Contemporaries is a collection of art students and emerging artists from Scottish art schools who just happen to be over the age of 30.
Whilst our initial cohort is drawn from Glasgow School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, our ambition is to access funding and resources to extend what we do to include mature creative learners and new graduates from all of the art schools in Scotland.
A key aspect of the Old Contemporaries remit, as well as organising exhibitions for new and emerging artists aged over 30, is to challenge arts organisations to consider alternative qualifying criteria and remove any age requirements to access their support.
Anyone starting their career over the age of 30 is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to accessing the majority of ‘emerging artist’ opportunities, including prizes, funding, and residencies. All of these are essential for developing professional practice and yet are often only made available to younger artists as part of strict age-related funding criteria. Old Contemporaries believe that this discriminates against people starting creative careers later in life.
We believe that there is an ingrained assumption that adult creative learners are mere hobbyists, cheerfully ticking another thing off their bucket list rather than being serious about making a career in contemporary art.
In addition to the youth-oriented criteria of art world opportunities, mature creative learners and older new graduates can also face multiple barriers their younger peers often do not. We are statistically more likely to have caring responsibilities, multiple disabilities, greater chronic ill health, experience of mental ill health and are more likely to be neurodivergent.
There are, of course, a few mature learners who have wealth privilege, but it should not be assumed that this is always the case. In addition to having greater financial burdens than their younger colleagues, many adult learners come from low-income backgrounds and may be the first people in their families to attend university. Mature learners are more likely to drop out of higher education due to the barriers they face and can be less likely to seek learning support or be aware such support systems are available to them in the first place.
All of these barriers and more can impact their ability and opportunity to attend industry events, socialise, and form professional networks, all of which are vital to gaining a foothold in today’s art world. Old Contemporaries seek to highlight that despite the societal and art-industry barriers we may face due to being over the age of 30, we still produce visually impressive, vibrant, thought-provoking and relevant contemporary art.