Shetland Arts Development Agency (Shetland Arts) was established in 2006 following a merger of the former Shetland Arts Trust and Islesburgh Trust. It seeks to encourage and assist in promoting and advancing the creation, practice and presentation and study of all forms of art - visual, performing and creative.
Shetland Arts Development Agency is governed by a Board of Trustees and is a registered charity. At present Shetland Arts employs 35 members of staff in a range of full-time, part-time or temporary posts.
Shetland Arts is an active partner in the Shetland Cultural Strategy and it regularly works in partnership with many organisations, local, regional and international, and with local communities, groups and individuals.
In the field of Crafts, Shetland Arts organises a programme of workshops, collaborations, awareness-raising exhibitions, mentoring, talks, networking for craft makers and other activities to provide artistic development and commercial opportunities for makers in Shetland.
In Dance, Shetland Arts' traditional dance artist Maria Leask regularly teaches in local schools as well as providing workshops for local festivals such as Fiddle Frenzy. In the past Shetland Arts has promoted contemporary dance in partnership with organisations such as Scottish Youth Dance. The whole area of dance, both traditional and contemporary has been identified as an area which requires further development.
In Drama, Shetland Youth Theatre performs at least twice a year and regularly participates in the Shell International Connections Scheme. A new outreach youth theatre group (YUF) has also been formed in the north isles. Shetland Youth Theatre's last production was an outside promenade performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream in the Walls Community Garden. The most recent community production was Virmish, which was a joint project with local group Serpentine Drama. In addition to running the Shetland Youth and an outreach drama programme, the Drama Development Officer spends time delivering education workshops and providing direct support to the very active amateur drama scene in Shetland.
Shetland Arts also runs the Garrison Theatre, Lerwick, a 280-seat proscenium arch theatre situated in the town centre, which is open throughout the year with a varied programme of visiting professional and community events. As well as hosting theatre, dance and music performances it provides a film programme showing popular first release films.
In partnership with Shetland Islands Council Shetland Arts is applying to the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund in order to build a new cinema and performance venue in Lerwick, which is intended to provide a range of leisure, educational, economic and creative services and opportunities for local audiences, students, performers and visitors.
In the field of Literature, Shetland Arts' annual Book Festival Wordplay has previously attracted writers such as Ian Rankin, William McIlvanney, Chris Brookmyre, Iain Banks, Julia Donaldson, Debi Gliori and many others. A network of writers groups and, in partnership with Shetland library, readers groups are run across Shetland. Shetland Arts runs writing groups in the areas of mental health and Independent Living in partnership with the Community Mental Health Team and the Shetland Islands Council's Adult Learning Department. It has also sponsored a number of resident writers who work extensively in schools and in the community, and has brought a number of visiting poets and writers to Shetland including Gerry Cambridge, WN Herbert, Robert Crawford and Kathleen Jamie.
In the Visual Arts field, Shetland Arts owns the Weisdale Mill which houses Bonhoga Gallery. There is also a small café, shop and crafts exhibition space. Some 11 exhibitions a year are organised, involving local, national and international artists. Bonhoga Gallery's Touring Circuit has exhibition space in the Sumburgh Airport, The Yell, Unst and Whalsay Leisure Centres as well as in the Peerie Shop Café in Lerwick. These exhibitions rotate bi-monthly. Shetland Arts also annually organises an 'Open Exhibition' which features work by local artists. There are over 100 exhibits each year and prizes are awarded in various disciplines.
Shetland Arts also works in partnership with WASPS to programme The Booth, Scalloway, which is an artists living and working space. In addition the Bonhoga Gallery Friends Association runs a programme of art and craft workshops in the Hatchery, situated across the road from the Weisdale Mill.
Shetland Arts is funded by the Shetland Charitable Trust and is a Scottish Arts Council foundation funded organisation. Additional funding is obtained via various community and economic agencies, arts-related organisations, and via sponsorship.