Statement of Special Interest
Ex Terra was the first major work of public art in Glenrothes and it is a notable piece by the renowned sculptor Benno Schotz. The sculpture, depicting a maternal figure emerging tree-like from the ground, symbolises the growth of the town and is a prominent and significant part of the streetscape. The Latin title of the piece is a shortened version of the Glenrothes Development Corporation's motto - Ex Terra Viz - 'From the Earth Comes Life' which refers directly to Glenrothes;' roots in the mining industry.
Benno Schotz (1891- 1984) emigrated from Estonia to Scotland in 1912. He worked in the drawing office of a Clydebank shipbuilders while attending evening classes in sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art. A member of the Royal Scottish Academy, he became Head of Sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art in 1938 until his retirement in 1961 and was appointed the Queen's Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland in 1963. His autobiography links him to the European tradition of Rodin.
The Town of Glenrothes benefits from a distinctive and diverse collection of public art set within a carefully tailored urban landscape. Driven by a range of underlying principals, social ideals and collective enterprise, the works often reflect the history of the area and help to shape and define a developing identity for the town. Local schoolchildren and other community groups participated in the creation of many of the works and the social context is an important part of their wider significance.
There are prominent landmark sculptures and more enclosed, hidden pieces which are encountered by residents rather than visitors. Some are component parts of other structures with murals and sculptures set within buildings and underpasses. There are several recurring themes including the groups of concrete mushrooms and hippopotami. New pieces continue to be created and the collection currently consists of around 150 works.
The late 20th century saw a move away from the sculptural reproduction of significant public figures on plinths towards a public art with a more localised meaning, favouring simple materials and a hands-on collaborative approach. In 1968, Glenrothes became the first town in the UK to appoint an artist to collaborate with architects, civil engineers and builders on projects across the developing built environment. David Harding was employed between 1968 and 1978 and was followed by Malcolm Robertson between 1978 and 1990. From 1972, post-graduate students were engaged to assist the Town Artist, as the role became known. The first was Stanley Bonnar who designed the Glenrothes hippo and later became the Town Artist for East Kilbride.
The appointment of a Town Artist and the pioneering approach taken to public art in Glenrothes aroused widespread interest in the UK and abroad with the Artists invited to speak on the subject in America, Australasia and elsewhere. David Harding went on to found the influential Environmental Art Department at Glasgow School of Art in 1985 and remains an active collaborator and champion of public art in Scotland. Malcolm Robertson began his own studio in 1991 and continues to work internationally in partnership with communities and local authorities, producing and exhibiting public sculpture and artwork.
Glenrothes was designated in 1948 under the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1946 as Scotland's second post-war new town, after East Kilbride (1947). The plan was to build a 5,320 acre settlement for a population of 35,000 people. The planning, development, management and promotion of Glenrothes was the responsibility of the Glenrothes Development Corporation (GDC) appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The town was populated in the early 1950s by mining families moving from the West of Scotland and the declining Lothian coalfield areas to work at Rothes Colliery, a new Super Pit officially opened by the Queen in 1957. Although the colliery failed to operate as expected, a few years later the town was appointed one of the economic focal points for Central Scotland. The GDC was successful in attracting modern electronics factories to the town during the 1960s and by the mid-1970s the town had become the headquarters of Fife Regional Council. It remains the administrative centre of Fife.