Overview

Arts Lab is a social enterprise that uses visual art to promote and encourage creative thinking and doing in every aspect of people’s lives.

Our mission

  • To help create a society that values art and the human need for connection and purpose through creative expression, experimentation and collaborative making.
  • To establish the visual arts as a dynamic, inclusive and participatory tool for social transformation.
  • For young, socially engaged artists to be leaders in positive change.
  • To connect visual artists and communities, making art accessible to everyone.
  • To help everyone to feel more connected and valued and inspired to affect positive change in our own and each others’ lives.

Our vision is of a society that values art and the human need for connection and purpose through creative expression.

Connecting artists as catalysts of change with groups and individuals, we help make good things happen.

Why

  • Years working as artists across communities has taught us the power of art as a tool for positive change.
  • The Covid crisis has highlighted the need more than ever to find ways of staying connected, building purpose and hope into daily lives wherever we are and of combatting growing social inequality.
  • Developing creativity in everyone can help boost morale and opportunity and confidence for positive change (that life can be good). Not only are we helped to overcome obstacles and to make better decisions, we become better collaborators and have a broader understanding of our own, each others’ and the wider world.
  • Our work with people with limited access to artistic making, and our collaborative partnerships, helps individuals across communities to feel more connected, expressive and valued.

How

We connect artists with communities making art accessible to everyone everywhere by providing:

    • Support for ‘artist changemakers’ to develop new, mutually beneficial ways of connecting with audiences.
    • Hands-on creative making activities and projects across communities – from carers and children to teachers and students; prison officers and prisoners to community workers and families; advocates of racial and social equality to refugees and displaced persons; business managers to office staff.
    • A platform to view, share and buy beautiful and thought-provoking artwork through our online galleries, social media, shop and pop-up venues
    • Inspiring stories about people and organisations we’ve worked with on our online platforms and in our growing collection of catalogues and zines (available at our online shop).
    • An innovative online presence – remaining agile and responsive in uncertain times – that keeps artists and communities making art and making change.
Living your life more creatively can help you appreciate what’s going right, give you hope and get perspective, communicate, problem-solve, and generally be happy.

What we do

  • In / or from schools and doctors’ surgeries, prisons and people’s kitchens, galleries and gardens, we create live pop-up / or virtual spaces to make art together.
  • We host and facilitate live / online workshops and event opportunities to collaborate, exhibit and develop work.
  • We provide open, non-judgemental environments in which to explore, experiment and create freely with the guidance of artists across a range of disciplines.
  • We work with artists passionate about social change, ensuring that our activities, exhibitions, and events – live or online – are engaging and thought-provoking.
  • Everything we do is designed to inspire creativity in participants and regenerate the communities we work with through a deep, rewarding relationship with the arts that is focused on inquiry and the development of arts practice.
  • Our work not only improves wellbeing across broad-ranging communities, Arts Lab creates opportunities for artists and enhances the calibre of visual arts regionally and further afield.
Find out what's on

Values

Everything we do at Arts Lab values:

  • human experience – starting with what we share and what can bring us together
  • learning – supporting transformation by doing, making and remaining forever curious
  • playful, experimental art for everyone – engaging artists and individuals at every stage of their creative development
  • freedom to express – exploring and giving voice to individual expression as a fundamental human right
  • art and creativity to inspire social change
  • collaboration in everything we do – when we work together, we are stronger
See our manifesto

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

As a sustainable organisation, social enterprise is really important to us. We want to be a model and motivator for artists to run their own businesses doing what they love whilst making valuable contributions to society.

In January 2018, Arts Lab became a fully registered Community Interest Company – a social enterprise that uses their profits and assets for the public good.

The Dartington School for Social Entrepreneurs and funding from Lloyds Bank were instrumental in helping the project to get to this point. Founder, Sara Downham-Lotto, benefited from being accepted onto 2 programmes and in 2018, became a Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs.

Our Story

Arts Lab was established in 2016 by abstract painter Sara Downham-Lotto as a consolidation of years as a free-lance art tutor and workshop leader in colleges and communities in the UK and abroad, and as a curator and exhibitor.

The Lab’s early development was supported by the Dartington Hall Trust in rural South Devon which situated the arts alongside social justice to broaden the reach of audiences and affect positive social change. From 2016-2020, we were based in the heart of the estate in a 109-square metre studio adapted by us for versatile use to run our programme of workshops, exhibitions, events and artist residencies. The combined impact of a changing Dartington and Covid, led us to the decision, in June 2020, to leave the Trust, become independent and to run our services from a virtual platform.

Since becoming a Community Interest Company in 2018, we have worked with over 25 organisations and 130 artists (60 of whom are 16-24).

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