Escalator Visual Arts was launched by the artist Phyllida Barlow in March 2009 with the event What do Artists do?  with contributions from artists Simon Liddiment, The Hut Project, Maria Zhale and Charlotte Thrane.

The launch was used as a way to communicate the aims of Escalator Visual Arts - to strengthen the networks of artists and curators working in the east of England and to support artists and curators based in the region to create opportunities for themselves and their work. The launch event was attended by ninety regional artists and curators and RCA staff and students.