Zack has been able to marry the beauty of the arts with the profit-motive of business, all while giving back a bit of the proceeds in the process. His company aims to shake up the art industry by connecting emerging and established artists with new buyers using nothing more than the current technology at all of our fingertips. It’s called Angeleno Artistry and it’s a modern platform for the purchase of affordable artwork from some of the best and brightest upcoming artists in Los Angeles, California. As a city exploding with culture and color, LA is the perfect backdrop for the timeless and contemporary style found in the pieces they feature.
In order to give back to the city, each purchase on Angeleno Artistry helps fund art classes for elementary school students who attend schools where the arts have been cut due to budgeting. Since they launched in September 2014, Angeleno Artistry has funded over 500 hours of art classes in underserved schools and they currently work with over fifty artists of a wide range of styles, from street art to fine art photography. As Zack puts it, it’s ARTWORK with an IMPACT.
In the interview beneath, Zack touches on the biggest moments in the company’s history, the struggles of a entrepreneurship and how important partnering up for a good cause is to him. Hear the exchange as we sat captivated by the impact Zack has already made and is intent on building upon:
TS: When did you found AA?
ZH: We began working on the idea of Angeleno Artistry in late 2013, and went live on September 2014
TS: What is your title within the company?
ZH: Founder, Creative Director
TS: How many artists do you currently represent?
ZH: We’ve had the opportunity of working with over fifty artists over the past year; the work ranges from contemporary pop art, to street art, to fine art photography, and even to poetry.
TS: Are they all from LA?
ZH: Yes – Angeleno Artistry is a celebration of culture and style in Los Angeles – so each artist lives and works in the area.
TS: How has the partnership with PS Arts been so far?
ZH: PS ARTS is an incredible organization filled with very hardworking and talented people. My favorite aspect of the organization is that they always rank very high in actual donation-to-output ratio, so the money that people donate to them is actually used for what they broadcast, instead of being caught up in messy corporate bureaucracy like what unfortunately happens to some other non-profits. They currently fund and provide art classes for over 20,000 students in the Los Angeles area, and by doing that are improving graduation rates, encouraging creativity, and empowering youthful self-awareness.
TS: How many hours a day do you work on AA?
ZH: This depends on the week – but most days I work on Angeleno Artistry for about 7 hours, and other entrepreneurial pursuits for 2 or 3.
TS: What were some big moments in the company’s history?
ZH: There have been a couple of big moments that, looking back, helped shape Angeleno Artistry into what it has become today. The first was securing PS ARTS as an official non-profit partner early on, which was facilitated through my prior working with them from my time at William Morris. Secondly, we were able to launch with a great group of first artists, which included my good friend and one of our favorite artists, Kelcey Fisher, who we were lucky to have involved at such an early stage. Since then, it has been a series of great involvement from high-level artists such as WRDSMTH, 2wenty, Greg Auerbach and Plastic Jesus, and exciting brand partnerships with companies such as Wanderlust Yoga, Bezar, and Tapiture. Another great moment was hosting our first sold-out pop up art show at LA Modernism in April of 2015.
TS: How many employees does AA have?
ZH: We are a currently a team of four, with a couple of people that help out on a part-time contract basis. It’s a lot for a small team but they are all incredible people and great at what they do.
TS: What stage is the business at right now?
ZH: Angeleno Artistry is in an exciting time of growth and development. This month marks a year in business for us, and we’re in the midst of shifting our focus to a larger scale operation.
TS: How exactly do you monetize since art is such a difficult industry to make money in?
ZH: Finding new ways to monetize the art industry is our biggest challenge, but also the entire reason we wanted to get into this industry in the first place. Art is such an impactful, inspirational industry full of social critiques, celebration of life, and encouragement of self-discovery; so it has been sad to see it lessened to the cold gallery and art show experience that keeps most young people away. Our mission has been to provide affordable and relatable modern ways for a broad, young demographic to begin learning about and collecting art.
TS: What were some obstacles you had to overcome before you started to monetize and what kept you going?
ZH: Finding ways to cut costs while still creating beautiful products and paying out our artists, and PS ARTS, is always the biggest challenge; the art industry is tough to make it in monetarily to begin with, much less after giving away a large portion of your profits. But we firmly believe that millennials will continue to value the idea that purchasing a product doesn’t have to be the end of the transaction – that your decision to buy something can sincerely improve other’s lives in an authentic fashion. It has absolutely been difficult, but things are looking bright, and I can’t wait to see where this ride takes us.
TS: What are your future aspirations for it?
ZH: While working with some of Los Angeles’ best and brightest artists to create limited edition art prints has been a blast, we know that there is a lot more we can do for our customers, the artists, and for the students who deserve creative classes at school. As a result, next month we will have a completely redesigned and expanded site, and we will begin officially selling affordable original art, artist-designed apparel, and other products; as well as, of course, our limited edition art prints. As we continue to evolve into a complete platform for young people to discover and purchase art, while giving back in the process, we hope to spur a movement towards a return to the collaboration with and support of local artists over big-box retailers and foreign corporations.
TS: Any future partnerships or collaborations?
ZH: Always! A few of our favorite collaborations that are in store are new installments and shows at the amazing new Wanderlust Yoga Studio in Hollywood, work with LA Fashion Week later this month, and a bunch more that we gotta keep under wraps! But definitely stay tuned.
TS: What’s been the toughest aspect of starting the company?
ZH: Loaded question – over the past two years there is almost always a new hurdle or challenge on a daily basis – but that’s what makes it exciting and rewarding. Product development to the point of being truly happy with the work, dealing with web developers, managing budgets, and putting out fires have all been challenges, but happy to say they’ve made us the company we are today and we’re excited about what’s next.
TS: Any advice or tips you could offer to artists out there trying to turn their hobbies into a business?
ZH: The art world is so interesting to me as an entrepreneur because each individual artist is, him or herself, an entrepreneur running a company complete with branding, marketing, and sales. The development of an artist’s career is solely based on the ability to develop their brand into a recognizable and monetizable entity that people will relate to and invest in; just like a start up company. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to ever turn actual profit out of their art if it is not their 100%, entire focus because of this, just like it’s much more difficult to start a successful company if it’s just your ‘hobby’.