Edinburgh Arts
Walking on the Celtic Trail

Investigation by Déborah Laks


In 1971, Richard Demarco, a Scottish gallery director and teacher who was virtually unknown outside his country, embarks on a university tour along the American West Coast. He has brought along images of Edinburgh and, through presentations in his epic accent, explains his summer school project to American students. More than just a backdrop, the city of Edinburgh and Scotland become entirely unique actors in the adventure. Amidst their wild landscapes, students come into contact with nature while discovering the vestiges of ancient Celtic and Neolithic culture. The idea is to experience, for several weeks, the country’s spiritual and artistic energies, tracking their ancient and contemporary manifestations, and translating them into artworks that will be exhibited during the Edinburgh Festival. The success is undeniable: Demarco appeals to the passion of this American youth for travelling abroad, he emphasizes the living folklore and depicts Scotland as a place where the past continues to thrive and current ways of life are infused with culture and spirituality. In his presentations, he depicts a country where New Age meets contemporary art, where you can converse in English with faeries and goddesses.

[ 1 ]


[ 2 ]


[ 3 ]

Edinburg Arts 1972 brochure, Richard Demarco archives.

[ 4 ]

Robert O’Driscoll, “A contemporary quest into the celtic and pre-celtic world”, Robert O’Driscoll (ed.), The Celtic consciousness, Edinburgh, Canongate Publishing, Portlaoise, Dolmen Press, 1982, p. 551-572.

[ 5 ]

The title of Edinburgh Arts in 1979.

[ 6 ]

Richard Demarco “Edinburgh Arts as a journey from Hagar Qim to Callanish”, in Edinburg Arts Festival Catalogue 1975, To Callanish from Hagar Qim. Exhibition documenting a journey involving on hundred artists, Edinburgh, Richard Demarco Gallery, 1975.

[ 7 ]

Richard Demarco, The artist as explorer, Edinburgh, Richard Demarco Gallery, 1978, p. 27, quoted by Lucy R. Lippard, Overlay. Contemporary art and the art of prehistory, New York, Pantheon Books, 1983, p. 132.

[ 8 ]

Julia Farley, curator for the exhibition “Celts: art and identity”, British Museum, October 2015. https://blog.britishmuseum.org/who-were-the-celts/

[ 9 ]

Jean-Paul Demoule, Mais où sont passés les Indo-Européens ? : Le mythe d’origine de l’Occident, Paris, Seuil, coll. « La librairie du xxisiècle », 2015.

[ 10 ]

To Callanish from Hagar Qim, op. cit.

[ 11 ]

Lucy R. Lippard, Overlay, op. cit.

[ 12 ]

Lucy R. Lippard, Overlay, op. cit., p. 11.

[ 13 ]

James Nisbet, Ecologies, environments, and energy systems in art of the 1960s and 1970s, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, MIT Press, 2014, p. 6.

[ 14 ]

David Bellman (ed.), A Journey from Hagar Qim to The Ring of Brodgar, op. cit. p. 1.

[ 15 ]

Richard Demarco, The artist as explorer, op. cit. p. 57.

[ 16 ]

Paul Heelas, The New Age Movement, Oxford, Blackwell, 1996, p. 41.

[ 17 ]

Richard Demarco, The Road to Meikle Seggie, Edinburgh, Richard Demarco Gallery, 1978, p. 5.

[ 18 ]

Letter from Honor Bickford 01/07/78-1 Richard Demarco Archives, box 1978.

Demarco easily attains his quorum of students, and in 1972 he organizes the first summer school, called Edinburgh Arts. The program would go on to last eight years before finally being discontinued in 1981, in that particular form, due to financial reasons. The goals, duration and geographical zones change over the years. And yet in…

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