Edinburgh Drawing School takes over Torrance Gallery on Dundas Street.

The Edinburgh Drawing School (EDS) was founded in 2012 by Director Fiona McCrindle, who formed the space after seeing a severe decline in the teaching of classical skills such as life drawing in art schools. At the time of set up, there were barely any life drawing classes in Edinburgh. Having worked at the Morningside Gallery for nearly eight years, Fiona was well versed in gallery running and directorship. With EDS, her priorities were to provide a space for people of all ages and abilities, allowing them to focus on advancing their technical skills ranging from composition to colour theory.

It was ‘all drop in originally’ explains Fiona, and ‘at first I bought only six easels’. Yet in order to manage their popularity and capacity of classes, it quickly grew into blocked courses and has now expanded to include a range of classes, with thirty-five life models on the books. In setting up EDS, ‘there was a lot of brainstorming involved’ and Fiona had by this point established a strong artistic network in the city, meaning she was able to invite several good friends and fellow creatives to be tutors for EDS.

After several years of working with the Drawing School on Great King Street, Fiona has now taken over the family run Torrance Gallery on Dundas Street, stating ‘it’s a privilege to be taking over such a well-respected and well-loved name’. The Torrance Gallery was set up in 1970 and was one of the first contemporary galleries on the street; a street which has since become a creative hub of gallery spaces. Brian Torrance and his wife Jo are retiring, leaving the gallery in the capable hands of Fiona. It was a quick take over, with discussions starting mid-November and the new ownership taking place mid-March. The EDS will continue to run classes but will no longer be a public art gallery, as exhibition operations will move onto Dundas Street – the place ‘that for years people were telling me that’s where I should be!’ In telling the artists she represents of the change, Fiona says, ‘it becomes real at that point’.

When asked how it compared to setting up the Drawing School, Fiona laughs, saying ‘that was a real breeze in comparison!’ She goes onto explain that with EDS, ‘there was not such a strong commitment to the business, but here I’m signing a ten-year lease’. In this instance, it becomes clear how fraught and precarious the current political climate and outcomes of Brexit are, as Fiona explains ‘there are various break clauses in place’ depending on the economic developments of the EU negotiations. Of course, everyone is hopeful for these to develop in a positive light, particularly given the creative economy. Yet Fiona is more than up for the challenge of negotiating the business, stating simply that ‘the first year is going to be a lot of learning’.

With taking over the Torrance Gallery, Fiona’s time frame has been a tight and speedy one. ‘My life is lists!’ she laughs, explaining how she was at the Borders Art Fair prior to the opening of the first EDS exhibition at the Torrance. Being at The Torrance is ‘a new way of working for me’, as their exhibition programme is in blocks of merely weeks, with most of the shows running for two to three and the longest ones for five weeks. It’s ‘really regimented’, says Fiona, but it’s ‘nice to put my gallery hat back on’.

The group exhibition of Torrance regular Ken Ferguson and new to The Torrance Gallery, Nancy Turnbull and Allison Young closes on Saturday 6th April, with the next Spring exhibition opening at The Torrance Gallery on 13th April.