In 1973 I arrived in Edinburgh as a young art student participating in renowned Scottish artist, gallerist and impresario Richard Demarco’s Edinburgh Arts ’73.
It was a 7-week immersive experience, with young artists and incredible exhibitions, performances, expeditions, and comraderie. Joseph Beuys, Taddeus Kantor, Patrick Reyntiens, and many other powerful artists delivered lectures and opened up the world of art-making for a new generation. It was a transformative experience to say the least, and Edinburgh as the seemingly magical host city was firmly embedded in my psyche. I have returned quite a few times since then, but now have actually set up a studio/residence in New Town.
I met many people, but it was Edith, the daughter of Patrick Reyntiens, also a participant, who told me about her parent’s arts centre Burleighfield House, a place where I went on to study and work for two years. Reyntiens, an illustrious British stained glass artist, and his wife, the painter Anne Bruce, took in international students. The kind of rich immersion in art and cultural knowledge I had experienced at Edinburgh Arts continued to influence me.
But my interest in Edinburgh and Scotland have other pathways as well…As an artist working with architectural glass, I was interested in more than making stained glass pictures – the international glass world was moving towards understanding how glass art could be transformative to architectural space in many different ways. Wanting to work with the entire spatial setting led me into architecture, and I entered architecture school, graduating in 1985 from UCLA, with a Master’s Degree in Architecture. I studied there with Charles Jencks, Charles Moore, Frank Israel, Robert Mangurian, and many other brilliant architects.
During those studies, Edinburgh’s New Town was of course part of the international history of architecture – an amazing feat of city-building – and I knew it well from first-hand experience. Something about it felt like it was in my bones.
Indeed, Scotland is in my bones. My name Stuart McKinlay Reid is an indication of that. I have photos that my mother and aunt brought back from a trip to Scotland, of the ‘Anie’ – the ‘McKinlay ancestral home’, a listed building…I haven’t visited yet, but its’ on the agenda for this summer. My people moved across the ocean to Canada during the clearances, and I am 6th generation Canadian. But my roots in Scotland remain… I feel strongly connected to the land and the sky here, and I deeply feel the beauty, strength and aliveness of Edinburgh when I am walking amidst its rich architectural environment. It is one of the cities of the world that I admire the most, and the UNESCO preservation of New Town is important and I’m pleased to participate in honouring this important architectural heritage.
I am opening my new studio/flat in New Town, which I have been refurbishing for over a year, during the inaugural New Town Art Month – I am delighted to find myself in the midst of so many art galleries and art and design studios…For me, this is a special ‘rite of return’, as an artist, an architectural designer, a Canadian/Scot. I am exhibiting over 40 works in five rooms, which will be open to the public June 7, 6-8 pm during the NewTown Art Walk, and between June 8 and 11 from 1-5 pm. I’m also giving an artist’s talk at the studio on Saturday June 10th, at 2 pm. This is my 50 year anniversary of arriving in Edinburgh, and celebrates my relationship with this city and its cultural aliveness and heritage.