A CUMBRIAN artist is preparing to make her mark on one of the world’s most iconic buildings in an exhibition that will open later this year.

Lara Allen, 39, was raised in Shap and is now embarking on one of her most impressive projects to date – The Lighting of the Sails at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.

The ‘Yarrkalpa – Hunting Ground’ lighting display forms part of Vivid Sydney’s annual festival which transforms the city’s bustling centre into what the organisers describe as ‘a playground of the unexpected’.

As senior producer of the project, Shap-native Lara has played a unique and pivotal role in the development of works which have brought together artists from the aboriginal Martu community with the company she works for, Curiious. The works were painted by eight female Martu artists.

Lara said of the project: “The Sydney Opera House represents community and is a gathering place, a meeting place where people learn.

“It feels very much like the animation belongs on the sails at the Opera House.

“We were lucky enough to go to Martu country and it was an absolute honour to meet these women. You really feel the ancient wisdom within them and know that you have to gain trust in order to take their paintings and do anything with it whatsoever.

“We want to make sure we pass on information in the animation and it’s not just pretty colour moving around.”

Lara attended Morland Primary School, went onto Queen Elizabeth Grammar school in Penrith, and for sixth form moved to Ullswater Community College to pursue more art-based subjects. She subsequently studied Fine Art at Loughborough University, studying abroad at Ohio University for a year.

Lara’s Cumbria-based relatives have expressed their pride at the achievements of this homegrown artist talent.

Her sister Jilli Allen explained that her talents were apparent from a tender age.

“She was always doing stories, play-acting. She was always being creative. Lara did a Fine Art degree eventually, but when she was younger she used to cover wallpaper with ideas for different movies and ways of presenting things! So her talent was always there but, of course, you never think growing up that somebody will go on and do this sort of thing.”

She described her pride at her sister’s achievements and hopes that it will inspire others from our region to dream big.

She said: “She was always so talented and we’re very proud of her.

“She’s literally come from Shap to lighting up an international landmark which is brilliant so we’re all just so happy for her.

"My mum still lives in Shap and I just think it’s such a lovely story, particularly for younger people that somebody could go on and follow her dream around the world.”

Lara’s mum added that the secret to her talents run in the family, with many of her relatives also sharing a creative flair.

She stated: “I think it’s somewhere in the genes. Jilli got a First in Product Design at university, my middle daughter is fantastic at drawing and I used to be a fashion designer.”

Lara’s mum also added her own hopes that her story can help inspire the next generation in Cumbria and praised the artwork, saying: “It’s inspiring because people can think, ‘I can come out of school and I can do this’! That’s what inspiration really is – allowing people to grow as big as they want to be, be who they want to be and not feel limited.”

“Although people like Helen Skelton are much more famous, it goes to show that you can come from this region, have a normal education and make a splash in the wider world.

“I thought the art was just fabulous. There’s something very deeply moving about the Aboriginal women’s art.

“I just find it so amazing – it’s like painting the Eiffel Tower, or something,” she laughed.

Lara’s mum also confirmed that, despite her daughter's success in her field, she remains very down to earth and that she remains close to her roots, keeping in contact regularly with family.

“She’s very low-key and she never actually mentions her job so much. That’s the kind of person she is, she’s always had her feet on the ground. We’re really close, we can talk with her all the time. But, honestly, we normally just chat about our lives!”

The Lighting of the Sails takes place between August 6 and 28 in Sydney.