As a curator McDiarmid co-founded Visual Artist Unit, a Scottish-based artist collective that aims to support the professional development of emerging and early-career artists. In his current role as Co-Director of Visual Artist Unit he has organised a wide range of public engagement projects involving emerging/early-career artists including the Pillow Talk series (various venues across Scotland) featuring the likes of David Shrigley, Graham Fagen, and Rachel MacLean alongside recent art school graduates, the VAU Members Shows (nomadic group shows of emerging artists’ work held in various venues across Scotland from 2014-2017) and Toaty Wee (2015), an open call exhibition of small scale works at Crownpoint Studios, Glasgow.
In a conscious effort to highlight the fact that the balancing of different types of work has become the norm for how a great number of artists operate in contemporary society, McDiarmid chooses to list all of his jobs roles when identifying his profession as an Artist/Curator/Restaurant Manager.
With a local focus, his curatorial practice investigates issues of sustainability and precarity of artists’ practice in Scotland. He seeks to work with artists to produce projects that ultimately act as support structures for nurturing the development of emerging/early-career/financially vulnerable artists.
Creative Scotland’s Visual Arts Sector Review in 2016* revealed that 42% of respondents (consisting of artists and art sector workers) worked in additional jobs outside of the visual arts to supplement their income. A third of these respondents work four days or more per week in their ‘other’ job.
As a response to this, McDiarmid launched the Artists’ Other Jobs Survey in January 2018. Building upon the initial information received from this survey, he has embarked on the organization of a series of events across Scotland as a means to continue discussions surrounding artists’ low pay and needs for time and space, so that we may begin to collectively produce strategies and/or solutions to enable artists to spend more time on producing work and to sustain their practices more efficiently and effectively.
*Creative Scotland. Creative Scotland Visual Arts Sector Review. Creative Scotland, Edinburgh/Glasgow, Oct 2016. Available from: http://www.creativescotland.com/resources/our-publications/sector-reviews/visual-arts-sector-review