Peacock Printmakers (Aberdeen) Ltd. was established in 1974 by a group of artists, led by Arthur Watson, who wanted to have a facility in the city for making fine art prints. These are prints usually made in small quantities – an edition of twenty would not be uncommon – where the artist is directly involved in their creation, as opposed to mechanical reproductions of existing images commonly sold in the high street as “limited edition” prints. After much searching an old workshop was found in the centre of Aberdeen and leased from the Trustees of St Andrew’s Cathedral; whilst the Scottish Arts Council agreed on a grant of £2,900 (equivalent today to £18,600) for equipment and fitting out costs. Throughout the seventies, Peacock continued to develop and expand until the point came when larger premises were needed. It was then pointed out that the landlords, the trustees of St Andrews Cathedral, had a problem with their large church hall which was underused and under maintained. On further investigation, it was found that the trustees had already looked at the possibility of building a small new hall on a vacant site behind the Cathedral and were in principle behind Peacock moving into their large hall while also retaining Peacock’s existing building. Both buildings off the Castlegate fall within the Castle Street conservation area at the east side of Union Street. The old workshop, although much altered, was erected in 1710 whilst the present workshop was built as a school in 1860. The latter’s large windows giving good natural light made ideal conditions for making art.
Peacock then began fundraising, which resulted in major grants from Aberdeen District Council, Grampian Regional Council, The Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Tourist Board. Also at this time discussions were started with Artspace Galleries who were interested in moving their Gallery from Belmont Street into the old workshop. It was agreed that Peacock should oversee the exterior work on this building, re-slating the roof and harling the walls and then Artspace would convert the interior into two galleries while Peacock visual arts retained half the upper floor as a new framing workshop. By the early 1990s, Peacock had developed into a professional organisation with the some of the most impressive printmaking facilities in Scotland. From its earliest beginnings of employing just one, Peacock now employs 11 members of staff, numerous tutors and an ever growing band of volunteers. Over the years Peacock has attracted many artists to work in it’s lively and busy workshop. The outcome has been a continuous and steady stream of exciting and high-quality innovative work. Like all successful organisations, it has embraced change and has expanded and adapted to remain relevant to the needs of new generations of artists and public. It now has the widest range of visual arts production facilities openly available in Scotland and provides expert training in their use.
Although Peacock Visual Arts continue to take pride in the quality of its technical facilities (such as a state of the art broadcast-standard video editing suite) and skills of its workshop team, its focus is now to bring artists and public together to share and explore ideas and to make and present art in new ways. It organises many artists, participatory and exhibition projects each year and its innovative work in visual arts education has won numerous awards.
Reflecting this expansion of activities it changed its name in 2001 to Peacock Visual Arts.