Vision and Values

The Dewar Arts Awards were set up in 2002 by the Scottish Executive as a fitting memorial to Scotland’s first First Minister, Donald Dewar. The respected broadcaster and journalist Ruth Wishart, his friend, was appointed as Chair and the unique criteria of the fund, which reflect Donald Dewar’s passion for the arts and commitment to social justice were established. Ruth Wishart recruited Trustees to the Awards, selecting them for their insights and understanding across specific art forms, talent development and access, or their specialist expertise.

2007 awardee Jonathan Boyd with the medal he designed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
2007 awardee Jonathan Boyd with the medal he designed for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.


Most of the Trustees at that initial stage also knew or had worked with Donald Dewar and all shared the values expressed in the purpose of the awards, which still stand 15 years on – to support talented young artists in Scotland who do not have the financial means to pursue their ambitions. If a young person under 30 lives and works in Scotland, can demonstrate outstanding talent and is without the financial means to achieve their future potential, they are eligible to apply.

“I became a Trustee because of the values. For me the Dewar Arts Awards are about giving a chance to young people in Scotland but also about investing into the Scottish cultural scene. They have been a critical change maker, an essential factor in determining whether a talented individual succeeds or not.”

Jill Miller, Dewar Arts Awards Trustee

Then and now, the spirit of the awards and the decisions of its Trustees have been driven by a belief in and commitment to the future of creative young people in Scotland and their place in the vibrant, outward-looking and diverse cultural sector Scotland depends on. The Trustees see the awards as an investment into an individual’s creative future and into the future cultural wellbeing of Scotland. Their view is that the flourishing of individual artistic endeavour should in turn nourish the creative ecosystem that is needed to sustain that talent.

The Dewar Awards have been encouraging, nurturing and funding ambition in young artists in Scotland for 15 years. This commitment has been informed by a subtle understanding of the complex creative development pathways that artists need, choose or are compelled to follow and a knowledge of the specialist educational and cultural ecosystem that they move through.

The approach of the Trustees is infused with a consciousness of the sometimes crushing financial and personal circumstances that can destroy artistic aspiration. It is also informed by a sensitivity and commitment to the needs of those whose talents have emerged through substantial challenges. The dual approach to outstanding talent and financial need continues to define the unique role of the Dewar Awards in Scotland.

“With the artistic and economic climates the way they are currently, it has become extremely difficult for artists with backgrounds such as my own to find their voice and let it be heard. The financial support that the Dewar Arts Awards provides is absolutely essential in helping people find their footing and gain confidence in discovering their goals and committing to them fully without worry of failure due to economic hardship. The moral support provided through this is even greater still.”

Lewis Anderson, Dewar Arts Awardee