An historic painting school is looking for someone new to lead it into the future.

The St Ives School of Painting, based at Porthmeor Studios in Back Road West, is seeking a new director to lead it into the latest phase of its long history.

The new director will become the principal of one of Cornwall’s leading cultural institutions, the fundamental aim of which is to enrich people’s lives by nurturing and enabling their creative spirit.

Trustees have said they are looking for a practising artist to be appointed to the post.

Chairman of trustees Neil Scott said: “This unique opportunity comes at a challenging but exciting moment for the school; a pivotal point in our journey.

"The new director – a practicing artist themselves – will put their stamp on the organisation and on the Cornish arts and culture scene, whilst benefitting from a hugely supportive board and a strong team, all of whom are ready for the next chapter.”

Porthmeor Studios from the air photo Picture: Alban Roinard

Porthmeor Studios from the air photo Picture: Alban Roinard

Current director Alison Sharkey announced her departure after an 11-year tenure during which the school has grown significantly, achieved a firm financial footing and – most recently – diversified into online art tuition.

Ms Sharkey, who is leaving to pursue her own arts practice, said: “It has been a tough decision, but I feel now is the time to hand over to someone who can bring a fresh approach to the school as it continues to break new ground.”

She continued: “For over a decade leading the school has been my sole creative practice; it has been incredibly interesting and rewarding. I’ve had the privilege of working with fantastic trustees, a dedicated staff team and talented tutors and I’m very proud to see the School flourish and grow despite the challenges of the past two years.”

Mr Scott praised Ms Sharkey's time in charge, saying: “Alison has been an outstanding director who, over her tenure, has not only built on the school’s successes, reach and influence, but recently steered us through the pandemic with remarkable alacrity and resilience.

"Her bold steps to accelerate our move into online learning tapped into a global audience; courses live-streamed from the Cornish coast have made our offering more accessible than ever before.”

One of the key aims of the new director will be to grow the online learning programme, as well as continue the tradition of face-to-face learning at Porthmeor Studios in St Ives.

Leonard Fuller teaching in studio in the 1940s

Leonard Fuller teaching in studio in the 1940s

At the same time, the school’s charitable aims are an intrinsic part of its mission, and its ground-breaking youth programme is set to improve opportunities for many more young people in the years to come.

The St Ives School of Painting has been running art classes in Porthmeor Studios since 1938. Figures such as Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon, Patrick Heron and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham have all worked in the Grade II listed building, sharing it with fishermen working out of the cellars beneath.

It is hoped that the new director will take up their post this spring, with the position coming with 12 days' paid additional leave to support the development of their own artistic practise.

Recruitment for this unique role is being led by Anna Jay of Public Leaders Appointments. More information and details of how to apply can be found at