Mission, vision and background

Mission Statement

Our mission is to be a vital resource enabling artists, young people and the wider community to promote and benefit from the visual arts.

Arts Lab’s Vision

Our vision is to transform lives through dynamic and experimental visual arts engagement working alongside professional artists.

We aim to reduce the numbers of young people suffering from anxiety and depression whilst also increasing the number of happy and professionally fulfilled artists. At Arts Lab, everyone is encouraged to exceed their potential and fall in love with their purpose.

We also foster high calibre visual arts practice and collaboration in the south west.


One in four of our country’s 12-25 year olds suffer from anxiety and depression. We have a generation of increasingly isolated, uninspired and disempowered young people. Equally desperate are the increasingly high numbers of arts graduates unable to find work that relates to their passion and utilises their skills.

For mutual benefit and fulfilment, Arts Lab connects these two groups – young people with artists. We are an innovative and vital resource offering a range of dynamic, experimental arts activities to inspire and motivate, boost confidence and empower. Young people are connected with opportunities to build and energise happier, more resilient communities. The project has also been successful in increasing numbers of fulfilled arts practitioners.


Our ethos embraces experimentation and play, individual expression and social and cultural diversity. We aspire to harnessing creative energies in ways that can most benefit young people, the wider community and the arts themselves.

Arts Lab is committed to the arts, their practice and how they link on a fundamental level to other disciplines and what it is to be human. In line with Dartington’s ethos, we see ourselves as an extension to the “progressive lab for living and learning” and believe that “creating art is central to the development of a good citizen.”* (*Black Mountain College of Fine Arts and Progressive Education).


Arts Lab came into existence as a pop up arts space at Aller Park, the former Dartington Hall School building on the estate. This followed a commitment by Dartington’s CEO, Rhodri Samuel, to make two rooms available for temporary or pop-up use by the community until a permanent and viable long-term use was found for the entire building.

The idea of the project came from founder and creative director, Sara Downham-Lotto’s. Born out of an ambition to combine artists’ studio space with a place to run workshops and collaborative projects, the two rooms at an affordable rent was a great opportunity. Sara had recently completed an AA2A residency at Plymouth College of Art. This experience, together with the success of her year-long project with the local secondary school faciltating students to set up their own studio, propelled her to consolidate her 30 years’ experience of painting, exhibiting and teaching. The timing for an Arts Lab couldn’t have been better; the newly appointed CEO, Rhodri Samuel, and Director of Arts, Amy Bere, were embarking on the challenge of resurrecting Dartington from years of neglect and mismanagement. The plan in a nutshell? To return to the core values of what the Elmhurst Dartington stood for, embracing inclusivity, social and cultural diversity, the new and experimental. These values also underpin everything that Arts Lab stands for.

In August 2016, Amy Bere invited Arts Lab to be a part of the ‘evolving arts strategy’ at Dartington. Since September of the same year, we have therefore been based more centrally on the estate at Studio 20 at Dartington Space.