It is with a heavy heart that I am having to close down the LARA London studio due to the insurmountable difficulties the current pandemic has caused.
I set up LARA 12 years ago in answer to a lack of quality skills-based art training in the UK. This was my vocation and so I committed to creating a school where students could come without any prior training to learn the skills of drawing and painting. The demand that I perceived for this training was quickly validated, and over 4000 students have come through our doors since opening, whether that be for our short courses or to study our curriculum through our foundation and diploma programmes. I put my own artistic career on hold in order for LARA and this training to become a reality in the UK. As I look back at the happiness and pride LARA has afforded me through the excellent work that has been produced, the major national and international prizes won by our alumni, and the community that has been formed, I can say that it was all worthwhile. LARA has provided me with lasting friendships and many fond memories over the last decade, as well as the pleasure of seeing the friendships, relationships and marriages that have emerged in the student community.
However, over the last few years, battling ever-increasing rent, moving studios and the uncertainty of Brexit, things have been challenging. Now with Covid-19, without any concessions from our landlord to find a way forward and with no external support or concessions being provided by the government, local council or other sources, we have been put in a very difficult position. With our method of one-to-one teaching now presenting possible risks of transmission, as well as social distancing measures severely limiting student numbers and making some of the studio unfit for use, resuming teaching and continuing LARA in this form, at this time, is just not possible.
None of us could have prepared for this pandemic, and the arts and education landscape will be transformed as a result, but it is heartwarming to see the new and inventive methods businesses in the sector are adopting to stay afloat. Whilst we do not yet know how or when LARA might be in a position to teach again, we are continuing to research new ways that the school might operate in the future, re-emerging from this crisis better and stronger. Our charity, Friends of LARA, will still be running and any support to enable LARA to forge a new direction would be greatly appreciated in these challenging times. This pandemic has shown us that the move towards privatisation and away from public funding in the arts, as well as in many other sectors, has made for very unstable ground for large and small organisations alike. We hope that this crisis will force change, and create more sustainable futures for organisations who carry out the work that we really value. In the meantime, I want to thank you all for allowing LARA to play a part in your lives and your artistic development. It has been pleasure to watch skills develop and artists flourish, and I hope many of you will continue to stay in touch and share your work with us.
Wishing all of you every success and happiness in the future.
James, LARA Director