- Lanre Olagoke was born on the 18th of August 1962 in the United Kingdom. A painter over 30years, who founded Art-Alive Arts Trust in 1999 when he was homeless and at the brink of giving up everything. An encounter with an Irish man who had served twenty years in prison ignited the vision of Arts Alive. Lanre was told that his gift for painting needed to be shared in prisons. Lanre’s belief is “What keeps me is my art”. When he paints, he can express his emotions, feeling peaceful and at his most fulfilled. Lanre set about going into prisons and tutoring in-mates in art. According to Lanre, “I believe in second chances because I was given a second chance to get my life back on track. Otherwise, I would be in the same position as many of those I tutor”.
Outside of prison, Art –Alive Arts Trust provided a studio space for Lanre’s students to create their artwork and express themselves freely. Art Alive has helped more than 5,000 inmates and ex-offenders learn skills such as furniture design, painting and ceramics. The Trust hosted an art exhibition in 2008, titled Breaking Out, to showcase artwork by ex-offenders.
Cocaine, cannabis and gambling led Lanre Olagoke to go from being a promising student to being homeless in the United Kingdom. Lanre hit the drugs and drinks hard, and at one point was sleeping at his mother’s garage, squatting and washing in shower rooms of local swimming pools. “People, including my family, thought I was going crazy. I was taking a lot of drugs and gambling. The bills just got higher. It got to a point where I did not have a place to stay,” he recalled. “My experience in the last ten years has proven what I already believed”. To his family, being an artist was odd, how could he make it? Did that make him want to change his direction? “I never thought of giving up, that was my joy. Whenever I’m painting, I’m so happy, and anytime I’m going through pain, all I need is a brush and paint. I don’t get drunk or drink, I used to smoke weed and take cocaine but I’ve stopped all that. My greatest pride is when I’m creative. I love people and it brings greater joy when you are appreciated” he responds.
He also adds “Working in and out of prison is great, but could be daunting sometimes; however in-mates and ex-offenders have used art to reach their creative potential, build their confidence with extraordinary results” Now the question is what about the victims of crime? Lanre has started a project which also helps those who have been affected and been victims of Crime. He has had numerous successful exhibitions in the United States and also in Europe, mostly in London. He has worked in prisons across England showing inmates an alternative to crime through Art. He has worked in schools, communities, and with different organisations such as British Airways, The Place Theatre, St Martin’s In the Fields to name a few.. He has also lectured in colleges when invited to talk about his journey as an artist. In February 2006 Lanre was featured in the BBC INSIDE OUT Programme when he spoke about Art beyond Bars.
Lanre became a partner of Ruach Ministries in 1999, married and now with two beautiful daughters, where he later became the coordinator of the Outreach Ministries. They go out on every Tuesdays to feed the homeless and destitute and visit prisons all over the United Kingdom. Due to the magnitude of the work, Lanre had to employ other artists to accompany him. On one of such occasions at the 150th anniversary of HMP Wandsworth Prison, Princess Anne was there, he revealed. So, what do you tell those confined behind the bars of Her Majesty the Queen’s prisons?
Lanre and his wife Simone are the co-coordinators for the homeless team in Ruach Ministries, who feed over 100 people in Brixton every Tuesdays without fail. He supported the Anti-Firearms campaign 2005 (rally against gun crime) in Wind rush Square in Brixton, which was prompted by the brutal New Year’s Eve murder of Solomon Martin (24). Lanre has worked with the London Probation Service and also with the youth offending team to find ways in which crime can be reduced in our community. In 2010 Lanre managed one of the FTC (Foundation Training Centre) in Hackney to rehabilitate and see how vulnerable adults and those at risk of offending can get out of crime and find a sense of belonging. This has managed to save the Tax payers money and reduce re-offending rates like never before.
Lanre went with a team of 5 to Haiti in 2010 when it was hit by an earthquake. The devastation was beyond what you hear on the news or see. They managed to raise almost £30,000 which wasn’t for administration, but for food, clothing, tents and essential commodities. This year Lanre and his wife are also going back with 30 more volunteers who are professionals in October 2011. They have managed to raise almost £20,000 during the Mission Walk from Brixton to Kilburn. Last time they fed and clothed over 2000 Haitians. It was a life changing experience and they are looking to 5,000 Haitians on this trip in October
Certain percentage of proceeds from Lanre’s exhibitions/ paintings will go towards the Mission to Haiti when sold.
- The way you dress is how people will address you, so dress to impress not depress...lanre olagoke 2010
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