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Ackerman Studios: The consultancy aiming to make art “part of the everyday”

The creative industries in the UK are undergoing a revival – government figures show the country’s creative industries are now worth £84.1bn per year to the UK economy. At the heart of that is a piqued interest in art. 
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With that surge in mind, Real Business sat down with Lily Ackerman, who runs Ackerman studios, to hear how she aims to challenge the way we interact with art, by moving art into the everyday and using existing venues and spaces as avenues to display art.

Please describe Ackerman Studios in your own words

We’re an art consultancy helping place a combination of emerging and established artists in a multitude of locations. This means we could be placing a sculpture outside a Mayfair hotel one moment and fitting an installation for a private launch party the next.

How did the idea for Ackerman Studios come about?

My father, Roy Ackerman, used to run a consultancy working with restaurants and hotels. Given my love for art, I always saw this aspect of his work as something I aspired to and so took it on and started building my own business out of that.

It’s been a tough yet rewarding journey so far, but we’re really starting to make some strides this year.

What upcoming projects are you most looking forward to?

There’s just so much to choose from! At 45 Park Lane, we’re curating a “year of art” focused on promoting emerging artists, which I’m really excited about. We’ve been working with 45 Park Lane for a number of years now. That long-term relationship means that we really know the audience and the team.

While we’ve had well known, established artists like Sir Peter Blake and Bruce McLean exhibiting at the hotel, they are really receptive to undiscovered and emerging artists too. The general manager, John Scanlon really sees the value in creating engaging, evolving spaces for guests.

Outside of that we’re also doing a couple of private projects that I’ll be able to talk about in the next few months. We’ve been working on these for a while now and can’t wait! One involves one of the biggest British contemporary artists and a floating vessel…very exciting! So watch this space and keep checking back to our website.

What do you want to achieve with Ackerman Studios?

I want to create accessible art experiences that make art part of the everyday. The art world is complex, unregulated and very competitive. People think of it as a supportive, open environment but in reality, I’ve experienced quite the opposite.

I am very lucky to have had some incredible support from artists, galleries and curators however, that’s not always the case. I am very transparent and want to use the wealth of opportunity out there to place amazing artists in innovative spaces, to enhance both sides.

What has been the toughest part of running the business so far, and how did you overcome the challenges?

As a first-time entrepreneur, you end up having to do everything. That means sales, PR, operations, legal, financial, marketing and client management. Learning to properly manage my time, prioritise workloads, and how to say no to things was one of the first hurdles I really had to overcome.

When you start out, everything feels super urgent and you want to give everything your all. I ended up spending my time on minutiae as opposed to seeing the bigger picture. Now, I make sure I’ve got adequate time to plan projects, strategise and delegate. I’ve now got much better at project planning and now I don’t sweat the small stuff as much.

I’m always trying to find a better tool or strategy to manage my time in email – where so much time is spent – I gave a few a go, but haven’t found the right one so far. If anyone knows one, feel free to recommend!

What were you doing before you launched the business?

Before Ackerman Studios I had a varied career ranging from marketing for a large scale automotive company, to events management for a children’s charity. They were very different worlds but I’ve been able to draw on my learning, experience and contacts to further Ackerman Studios.

Who’s your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My father. He built his business from nothing, always seeing and seeking opportunity, while never giving up with a fierce belief that things would turn out for the best. He’s a determined businessman who was always kind and considerate.

When I am having a tough day, I think of all the obstacles he overcame and how he woke up every day seeing the best in things. It keeps me motivated and seeking opportunity. It is a privilege to be in a position of interaction with such artistic talent and I recognise that every day.

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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