Our team

Assistant curator & social media coordinator
Francesca Beards

Francesca has recently completed her M.A. in Curating at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Having volunteered with Arts Lab before, she has returned to develop her experience working in social arts engagement and programming before pursuing a career in the museums sector. ‘What has remained consistent, is my interest in the potential for wellbeing through art - something Arts Lab really consolidated for me and why I’ve been excited to return!’

Steering group
Michael Cadys

Michael went to art school in the late 1960s, the experience of which, he says, influenced everything he’s done since. His background is in publishing as editor, manager and consultant with Dorling Kindersley and David & Charles. He was also a tutor on a ground-breaking multimedia course at Plymouth University. ‘Arts Lab is a reconfirmation of my belief that being creative alongside other creative people can change your life.’

Non-executive Director & head of junior Arts Lab
Sophy D’Angelo

Sophy is an artist educator with over 20 years experience working with children’s groups in London, Bristol and South Devon. A graduate in Art & Social Context, her passion is to facilitate visual arts engagement across broad-ranging groups as a tool for empowerment. Before now, she has worked for organisations such as Thames Festival, Kids Company, Tate Modern and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Sophy also currently teaches art and photography at the South Devon Steiner School.

Autumn Experimenter/ virtual residency & mentor
Viola Depcik

Viola is a mum and a photographer. Originally from Poland, she has spent the last 15 years exploring and living in Spain, Norway and now the UK. Her background is in interior design but her ‘heart belongs to photography’, dedicating the last two years to exploring the medium and developing her portfolio. Viola’s last commission was for the enterprise Mothers Who Make - ‘Motherhood and Making: Portraits in Lockdown' . She’s the Arts Lab Autumn 2020 Experimenter.

Founder & Director
Sara Downham-Lotto

Sara is an abstract painter with over 30 years’ experience working in studios, exhibiting and teaching in the UK and abroad. She trained in Fine Art and Art History in London, Manchester and Glasgow. Experience working across broad-ranging communities - always painting - has shaped her drive to encourage collaboration and creative thinking and making through learning, through life and through art. In 2018 Sara became a Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs. More info: www.saradownhamlotto.net

Marketing Intern
Chiara Grassi

Chiara has just graduated from Plymouth University with a degree in Events Management, aiming to pursue a career in Marketing and Events planning. She is a nature lover, with an interest in making whatever she markets look and sound beautiful. In early September, she joined Arts Lab as a Marketing Intern funded by the Plymouth University iMayflower Internship Scheme.

Artist associate
Rachel Hopkins

Rachel is a recent graduate in Interior Decoration, Design & Styling from Plymouth College of Art who has been accepted onto our ‘Young Artists Sharing the Light’ team. As well as making weekly artwork contributions to the project, she is helping us to broaden our networks with voluntary research into organisations supporting marginalised artists.

Technical creative coordinator intern
Ben Langham

Ben joined the Arts Lab team in late August having just finished his degree in Digital Media Design at the University of Plymouth. He is working as an intern funded by the iMayflower internship scheme. In September he will be continuing his studies with a masters degree in Creative Computing at Bath Spa, running in parallel with his work at Arts Lab.

Artist associate & mentor
Jonathan McCree

Jonathan is a painter based in London, developing his practice for 30 years and exhibiting internationally, with solo exhibitions in London, Dublin, the USA and Italy. He is represented in London by the Sim Smith Gallery. Interested in painting as a form of collaborative activity, he has worked with dancers, musicians, architects and designers. He has been part of the Lab since 2018, since when he has been resident Artist Experimenter on two separate occasions. See http://jonathanmccree.com/

Artist associate & drawing tutor
Fhiona Mckie

Fhiona is a Bath-based artist and lecturer in art & design. She is passionate about drawing in its broadest sense as a way of exploring ideas and process that go beyond observation. As well as lecturing at Bath Spa University, Bath College and Norwich School of Art and Design, she has delivered numerous workshops in museums and galleries. Fhiona is a trustee of the GANE Trust in Bristol which supports people involved in the arts, crafts and design and those engaged in welfare and social care.

Black & white photo of Student working
Artist associate
Matt O'Halloran

Matt is a second year part time M.A. Illustration student at Plymouth College of Art, aiming to pursue a career in illustration and education. He has a hands on approach to his work, combining collage and drawing techniques to build imagery that tackles a range of topics. Matt joined the Young Artist Sharing the Light team in the summer of 2020. ‘My current project is about community and expanding practice beyond myself as an individual. Arts Lab has already begun to help with this, with more to come.’

Steering group
Ali Roscoe

Ali has a background in education and has spent over 35 years working in schools and communities delivering innovative projects in varied settings, involving participants of every age and ability. She has worked with a wide range of organisations across the arts, environmental and heritage sectors, offering consultation, mentoring and training. ‘I always come away from Arts Lab’s workshops buzzing with new ideas and with my creativity topped up for another week’, she says.

Young artist associate
Anya Rose

Anya is a photographer with a particular focus on youth and environment. She is currently preparing for her first collaborative photography exhibition - ‘Homeland’ - with Arts Lab before making the transition to London to study photography. She is also an artist leader on the ‘Young Artists Sharing the Light’ project. Her ultimate aim is to contribute to innovative change in the creative industry.

Artist associate & assistant on Great Prison Art Exchange
Chris Sargent

Chris is a recent graduate in Drawing, Painting & Printmaking from Plymouth College of Art. Through the PPD (professional practice development) programme at PCA, he’s been working with Sara on The Great Prison Art Exchange project at Dartmoor Prison since 2018. As well as being instrumental in helping this project to thrive, he is currently developing his own social enterprise using art and colour as tools for wellbeing with veterans.

Artist associate
Cecilia Simonyi

Cecilia is a children’s book illustrator and artist educator from Hungary. She trained in Anthropology, Illustration and Printmaking. Using art as a transformative tool, her experience includes rural planning with tribal women in India, therapeutic art with street children in Rwanda and community storytelling with a village community in Brazil. As Arts Lab’s 2020 ‘Spring Experimenter’, Cecilia’s residency ‘evolved’ into being a key contributor on the ‘Sharing the Light’ team. See www.ceciliasimonyi.com

Artist associate volunteer
Sophia Thornton

Sophia is studying BA Geography and runs the student XR group at Exeter University. She is an activist who uses art as a tool to connect people and to fight social injustice. She joined Arts Lab as a volunteer in February 2020, ‘excited to learn about projects that encourage art making to extend beyond individual engagement with the world, into open conversation and collaboration.’ Sophia and her XR group are major contributors to the ‘Young Artists Sharing the Light’ project.

Volunteer support & social enterprise mentor
Chloe Tingle

Chloe started her own social enterprise when she left university, which she grew and developed for five years, before deciding to use her skills to support other enterprises. Chloe met Sara on a course at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, where she has since run programmes as a learning manager. Although not an artist herself, she is inspired by Sara’s passion to help anyone be creative and is particularly excited to support Arts Lab in reaching a number of disadvantaged and isolated communities.

Steering group
Ness Turner

Ness has been involved with the Lab since 2017. She is ‘committed to supporting the project to make a real difference to people’s lives as it has done mine. Thanks to my involvement with the Lab - taking part in workshops, being an interim director and latterly as a steering group member - I took the mid-life decision to be an artist!’ Ness is now enrolled on the Art Foundation Course in Totnes and makes sculpture whenever she can.