Sara Downham-Lotto is a painter, educator and recently-trained peacebuilder living in the North Pennines. She is also the director of Arts Lab UK.

Through her own paintings and facilitating participatory art practice, her aim is to encourage creative thinking and transformation within and across communities. Her approach blends hands-on collaborative making with references to art history and other artforms, drawing on parallels with the theory and practice of peacebuilding.

The Flipside (detail)

Sara’s painting is characterised by an upbeat joyousness emitted through colour, bold, abstract forms and repeating pattern. Process-led and experimental in approach, she works with paper and mixed media, allowing pieces to evolve into 2D and 3D inventions. Her collage technique, layering discarded material from collaborative workshops and old paintings, involves a radical deconstructing and reconstructing process. Each work then becomes a palimpsest of her own and others’ past experiences in the act of painting.

Sharing her creative practice, Sara brings high quality teaching and facilitation to a broad range of groups and individuals, encouraging conversation, connection and new approaches to problem-solving in challenging environments.  Her sessions are fun and engaging and bring out the creative in everyone, regardless of background and experience. Over 35 years’ experience has strengthened Sara’s belief in creativity as a force for good that builds bridges and helps us to imagine and build new worlds.

Through art, the great leveller, Sara has run projects in collaboration with a number of institutions and organisations. Groups with diverse needs from diverse backgrounds are brought together and provided with space for creative expression, experimentation and a love of learning. In 2016, Sara founded Arts Lab consolidating her lifetime’s work into a model that can benefit collaborators and wider audiences. More recently, her focus has been on developing a ‘Visual Arts for Peace’ programme for students of Peace and Conflict.


Fantastic stuff - and thank you so much for the opportunities that you have provided for my students to engage with wider arts practice this year!
Dan Paolantonio, Plymouth College of Art