“A place and a space to make and create… for students, run by students”

Room 13/The Open Box

Room 13, known as The Open Box at KEVICC, was a project initiated by Sara Downham-Lotto in the autumn of 2014 at King Edward VI Community College (KEVICC) in Totnes, Devon. It was a student-run website and studio facilitating the work of young thinkers, makers and artists alongside a professional artist from the local community. Our aim was to place art and creativity at the heart of everything with a dedication to involving everyone, generating ripples of influence into the wider community.

‘The Open Box,’ says Elise in Year 8, ‘is a place where kids have a chance to think outside the box and take charge of their responsibilities. This is an opportunity to be creative and do what we want through art.’
‘The idea of the title Open Box came from Faith (also Yr 8). We all immediately loved it. It sounds open to all. The box gives you the feeling you have space but still with some rules. The Open Box also suggests that there is no barrier to your imagination and a chance to be free.’

Who Ran It?

The students were encouraged to take the lead, be creative and to think for themselves. Six dedicated Yr 8 students calling themselves the Freedom Fighters ran the show. Sara Downham-Lotto, local artist and mum of three at KEVICC, was the facilitator.

How did we finance it?

Self-financing, students needed to come up with ingenious ways of supporting the project through exhibitions, fund-raising, etc. We are grateful to the KEVICC Parents Association for their kick-start financial contribution in February 2015. This afforded The Open Box materials and some payment for Sara’s time. We are also grateful to Alan Salt, the Principal of the school, for supporting the project and giving us studio space.

Hatching the Idea

Based on the Internationally renowned Room 13 model, The Open Box idea at KEVICC was hatched in September 2014 between Tim Wightman and Sara Downham-Lotto. Tim runs the Art Department at KEVICC and Sara is a local artist and workshop leader. They have developed a working relationship over the last 6 years running art workshops with school students at Sara’s studio, exhibition spaces and within the school itself. Tim and Sara share the ethos of harnessing students’ creativity and individuality and developing thinking and making tools for practical outcomes. Their mantra is also inclusivity, recognising the benefits of mixed ability, mixed age groups and the wider community working together.

Room 13 international and its origins

(Quoted from Room 13 International website:

Room 13 International represents a growing network of student-run arts studios in schools and community settings worldwide.

The story of Room 13 began in 1994, when a group of students established their own art studio in Room 13, Caol Primary School near Fort William, Scotland.

They ran the studio as a business, raising funds to buy art materials and employ a professional Artist in Residence to work with them.

Slowly and organically, Room 13 has gone on to establish a network of creative studios and a thriving community of young artists and entrepreneurial thinkers that stretches around the globe.

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