One of the figures who emerges from the archive in the context of the Third Eye's socially engaged ethos is American community artist Beth Shadur. Recently, fellow researcher Caroline Gausden contacted Beth regarding her time in Glasgow, with the following response;
I had been doing community murals prior to coming to Scotland. When I was awarded a huge fellowship from Brown upon graduation in 1975, I wrote to Jimmy [Boyle] at the Special Unit about coming there to do a large mural project. We corresponded several times before I came. I was working briefly in Mexico to photo document the murals there, when I heard from him that I should plan to come that summer of 1976. We did a huge mural at the Special Unit that is now documented at the People’s Palace.
Jimmy Boyle was friends with Tom McGrath and Joyce Laing before I got there. He had contacted Joseph Beuys too, upon seeing the work "I Love America and America Loves Me," telling Beuys that he, Jimmy, was the coyote.
Indeed, in a letter to McGrath, Boyle - serving a life sentence and probably the Special Unit's most infamous inmate - asserted that the piece was the only piece of contemporary art with which he felt any affinity. In an ongoing friendship, Beuys was to stand in for Boyle at an opening that the latter was unable to attend due to his incarceration. The German artist even went on hunger strike in protest at the decision to move Boyle from the Special Unit to a normal prison - an action which became known as the Jimmy Boyle Days. This relationship, forged between two figures, both of whom have taken on somewhat mythical status, seems to typify the way in which the Third Eye was a node which fostered unusual relationships and through which distinctions between art and society at large became difficult to maintain. With the Third Eye Centre providing a model for arts centres in Glasgow and elsewhere, it may be worth questioning whether the current incarnations live up to this early promise. As Beth Shadur comments:
Now, the idea of socially engaged art has taken off as if it is a new thing! Many of the community mural artists involved since the early 1970s would “laugh at this.” [...] It is really fashionable now to do socially engaged art and this type of work in many ways is the darling of the art world.
Courtesy the Richard Demarco Archives. Copyright Richard Demarco