Sara Downham-Lotto – Spring 2020

Young Artists – Sharing the Light is an Arts Lab Covid-19 response project supporting young artists pursuing careers in the arts to develop their practice in ways that maximise their professional calibre alongside working with and transforming communities. The project provides opportunities for 16-25 year old creatives each with their own specialisms to maintain connection, wellbeing and professional aspiration both during the current crisis and beyond. At the same time, young artists are encouraged to take the lead in inspiring and motivating others, through creative practice, to stay connected and positive in hard times.

This project is run in partnership with the Apricot Centre, a wellbeing service for children, young adults and families, Plymouth College of Art and a specialist advisor in Social Enterprise from the School from Social Enterprise. (See below for details)


  • combat everyday dullness & isolation
  • maintain connection & purpose with others (shared making, weekly group Zoom meetings, etc.)
  • establish ways of responding to ongoing global crises through creative expression, individual & collective voice
  • grow professional exposure, sharing profile & artwork on Arts Lab’s social media platforms with potential for live group shows(s) after lockdown
  • broaden networks – professional, creative & social
  • maintain hands-on making as an antidote to online dependency
  • share untried artistic approaches to/ techniques of expression
  • build entrepreneurial skills & opportunities to make money – selling artwork from Lab’s  platform & / or involvement in community projects
  • develop skills to become paid mentors & in facilitating others to be creative
  • build on independent learning skills & enjoyment of own company
  • receive free mentoring once a month from specialists in the arts, health & wellbeing & social enterprise


As ‘team artists’, over the course of 26 weeks, they are involved in a weekly Chain Reaction activity requiring them to create a piece of art responding to each week’s theme/ stimulus through their medium, involve their own communities/ networks in doing the same and collating all artworks into a project Archive folder. This is then curated by  a team of young curators onto regular Instagram feeds and eventually onto an online gallery and multimedia extravaganza. All responses to the stimuli are voluntary and playful, inviting others to find beauty in their everyday.


  • Young Artists

Anya Rose

I am a photographer with a particular focus on youth and environment. I am currently on a gap year, due to start studying photography at LCC in London in September. I was one of the first young artists to join the Sharing the Light project. Making weekly creative contributions has helped me to maintain a sense of focus whilst also learning from more experienced artists.

Francesca Beards

I have recently completed a Masters in Curating at the University of the West of England. In Sharing the Light I will be responsible for curating all of the online content, accessible through the Art’s Lab website. My hope is to expand my own networks with young creatives, develop my existing curatorial skill set and contribute to a new and growing community during this unique period in time.

Lydia Hughes

I would describe myself as an all round creative who specialises in styling, colour, layout, graphics and interiors. As a final year Design student at Plymouth College of Art, I have  joined this project to encourage people to be creative in this time of isolation, whilst also bringing an interiors based perspective to the team of artists. My hope is that by seeing different creations each week, I will continually be inspired and enlightened through this period of lockdown, along with expanding my creative skills and network. 

Rachel Hopkins

As a third-year Interior Decoration, Design & Styling student at Plymouth College of Art, my specialism involves styling and illustration. Within Sharing the Light I will be one of the young artists generating creative material weekly in response to the Chain Reaction series, inspiring others to stay creative. Working alongside other creatives, I believe it will help to keep me focused and inspired, sharing a connection through art and supporting others.

Sophia Thornton

I am studying BA Geography at Exeter University and am interested in the crossover between arts, politics and everyday lives tied to place specificity. I am engaged in activism and in understanding how our own personal lives can contribute to system change. In Sharing the Light I will be making creative and conceptual contributions to the Chain Reaction series as well as sharing a role helping with social media. Working collaboratively with other skilled arts practitioners in different fields makes it a really exciting project to be part of as I have little experience working in formalised ways with other creatives.

  • Mentors
  • Artist Practitioners

Cecilia Simonyi

I am a freelance children’s book illustrator and art teacher from Hungary. As the Arts Lab ‘spring experimenter’, my residency has been transferred to a commitment with Sharing the Light. My passion is to find the stories in our everyday – to turn the everyday into art. I will be contributing with ideas and artwork to weekly challenges and hope to have my mind and scope widened through connecting with the young artists in the project. As a freelance artist I had to make friends with isolation and I hope to be able to help others in coping with this challenge.

Jonathan McCree

Based in London, I have been developing my practice as a painter for the past 30 years, exhibiting nationally and internationally. Sharing the Light is a brilliant response to some of the issues raised by Covid-19. Drawing, painting and making of any sort, are wonderful ways to develop skills and learn about the occasionally unpredictable aspects of developing an artistic practice. As an experienced artist mentor I am excited about supporting and nurturing the participating artists in a process full of surprises and discoveries. In line with my belief that all art is collaborative and the exchange of knowledge continuous, I know that the flow of knowledge will go both ways.

Sara Downham-Lotto

I am an abstract painter and Director of Arts Lab CIC, passionate about bringing people together through the arts to help make the world a better place. I see Sharing the Light as the silver lining in the current crisis, triggering us all to think anew about ways to connect and share authentically what we have in common and what motivates us all to keep going. I will be the main co-ordinator of the project as well as contributing free mentoring to young artists and my own artwork to the weekly Chain Reaction series.

  • Social enterprise

Chloe Tingle

As a young social entrepreneur supporting a number of different social enterprises, I am a leader, listener and innovator. I have a passion for equality, sustainability, bringing people together and empowering them to take action on complex and deeply rooted issues. I’m keen to support others to develop and grow their social enterprise skills through mentoring and coaching, especially young people who right now might be struggling to see how they can connect with their community and where their future careers might take them with all the uncertainty around. I’m excited to feel proactive and energised about a response to the current crisis. 

  • Mental health/ wellbeing

Anna Lidzey

I am a registered Art Therapist with 15 years experience of working with vulnerable children and young people. I work both as an area manager, supervisor and Art Therapist for the Apricot Wellbeing Centre. My role in in this project will be both indirectly (through the workers) and directly with the young artists, offering support and guidance to mental health / wellbeing needs that may emerge. I hope to connect to the unconscious processes that emerging artists and project participants experience in exploring their creativity.

Mark O’Connell

I’m a Child Psychotherapist with the Apricot Centre CIC Wellbeing Service for Children and Families. My interest – where wellbeing interfaces with nature/creativity. My project is wellbeing mentor for artists/curators to help find their unique contributions and work with any challenges or disturbances, weaving this into the creative process. I hope to be part of the buzz I can feel when creating. There is nothing like it. I hope to enjoy the energy of creativity in the people involved in the project.

Rachel Philips

I am a Heritage Craft Practitioner and a qualified Art and Textiles Teacher with over 15 years experience working with vulnerable young people in women’s refuges, children’s homes. I work full time as a Wellbeing Manager, Mentor and Social Forester for the Apricot Centre where I am passionate about connecting people to nature based craft and therapeutic activities. My role in this project is to provide support and guidance to the needs that may arise from the work the artists are creating. I hope to be able to assist in exploring the creative process for the artists both in terms of their practice and their well-being.

  • Digital & technology co-ordinator
  • Intern

Artist, Community, Learning, Mental Health, Young people


Covid-19 response