We’re led by a dedicated, experienced and voluntary board of trustees who steer our strategy, work and mission as a charity.

Damian Fennell

In 2020 Damian founded radical digital consultancy startup MaxQ Consulting, which uses creative leadership and cutting edge 3D technologies to transform real estate development, planning and sales on major schemes from central London adaptive reuse sites to 7,500 homes new settlements. He was formerly creative director and then MD of Cityscape Digital, one of the foremost 3D digital agencies in the world specialising in CGI and VR creative production for the property industry.

He studied fine art and sculpture in London for 7 years in the 90s, graduating at the same time the Art Academy launched in 2000. Founding principal Tanya Russell invited him to join as the first resident artist and tutor. He moved on to become the first Courses Director, co-writing the sculpture diploma course with Tanya in its formative years while developing his fine art practice and profession.

In 2007 Damian joined Cityscape Digital as a post-production artist. He built a sculpture studio in his back garden in 2014, where he practices sporadically.

He believes artists have the unique talent of being able to imagine the non-existent and call it into existence, and he is passionate about nurturing and championing this creative thinking and artistic vision in the workplace.  

Photo by Oihane Molinero.

Melanie Gerlis

Melanie Gerlis is the art market columnist for the Financial Times and Editor at Large for The Art Newspaper. She was previously Art Market Editor of The Art Newspaper for nine years and has been reporting on auctions, art fairs and market news globally since 2006. She also worked for ten years at Finsbury, a strategic communications and investor relations firm, advising investment banks, hedge funds and other financial services clients.

Melanie has a BA in English Literature from Clare College, Cambridge and an MA in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Her book, “Art as an Investment? A Survey of Comparative Assets,” was published by Lund Humphries in 2014.

Kate Gordon

Kate Gordon is the founder and CEO of London Art Studies. Having produced arts programming for Carlton TV and CNN, Kate founded London Art Studies in 2011. Now offering online courses, LAS won the People’s Vote for the “Best Online Art Experience” in the 2020 Webby Awards (which honour the best of the Internet). Educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School, Amherst College USA and University of Moscow, Kate co-founded the Association of Women in the Arts (AWITA) in 2016 and wrote a regular column on art for London’s Evening Standard newspaper for 5 years.

She chaired the fundraising group ‘Foreign Sisters’ in 2017/2018 and remains a Senior Arts Advisor to Cancer Research UK; she is on the board of the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital Art and Design Advisory Group, and a Trustee of Art History Link-Up. In 2020 Kate became Chair of Serpentine Patrons.

Jenna Littler

Since April 2017, Jenna Littler has been Burberry’s Senior Vice President for Wholesale, Franchise and Travel Retail across its EMEIA region. She joined Burberry in 2010 and led the company’s communications activities worldwide before moving into the newly-created role of Senior Vice President, Global Integration in 2014, working alongside Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Bailey on the development and implementation of Burberry’s strategic priorities globally.

Jenna joined Burberry from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in London, before which she held various positions in the UK Civil Service. She started her career in financial communications.

Jenna is passionate about the arts in all their forms. She holds a First Class degree in History of Art from Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, and qualified in Architectural Interior Design at the Inchbald School of Design in London.

Alan Custis

Alan has been working in the investment field for over 30 years, most recently as the Head of UK Equities at Lazard Asset Management. Alan has had broad experience in both the private and public markets, running pension funds in the private sector as well as managing substantial assets for Local Authorities. Furthermore, he has launched innovative investment solutions for clients over many years.

As an expert in his field, Alan has increased his media presence by appearing regularly on CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and SKY providing commentary on the UK stock market as well as trying to unpick the implications of Govt policy on the investment landscape.

Alan is a member of Repton School’s general investment sub-committee, responsible for monitoring the performance of the schools’ investments, which provides bursaries for students as well as capital to expand the school’s facilities.

Amanda Bright

Amanda Bright has worked in Higher Education (HE) for over 30 years, much of this time at the University of the Arts London (UAL). Her subject background is as a metalsmith, studying at Camberwell and then as an MA student at the Royal College of Art (RCA).

She believes strongly in the value and transformative potential of arts education for each individual and is passionate about ‘material engagement’, ‘practice-based education’ and ‘learning by doing’, championing these throughout her academic career, from her early days as a lecturer and Course Director at Camberwell, through her time at CSM – her final role there being as Associate Dean for Academic Development – a cross-College role working in particular with Programmes on the development of new courses. She moved to the University of Brighton in 2016 as Head of the School of Art and retired from there as Dean of the School of Arts and Media in 2021.

She has extensive HE QA experience in the UK, and since 2015 has also worked as an HE subject reviewer for the Hong Kong Council for the Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ). She is currently undertaking specialist reviews for QA agencies and organisations in Europe.

Rob Pepper

Rob has been a part of the Academy since 2004, and Principal since 2017.

He is an international keynote speaker on the arts, education, creativity and author of the book The Artist’s Manual. Rob regularly exhibits worldwide and his recent commissions include a rebranding for Parker Pen, design for Xiaomi’s iconic porcelain, Mi Mix 3 Phone and a large scale public artwork in Shenzhen, China.

Paul Mulholland

Paul Mulholland is a retired Solicitor, who spends his time between London and West Dorset.

In addition to his involvement with AAL, Paul is a trustee of Sadler’s Wells, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, and Dzi Foundation, which is involved in grassroots development work in rural Nepal.

Amir Zahedi

Amir is a Chartered accountant in public practice with a wide knowledge of companies and commercial ventures in many industry sectors. He has hands on experience of working in the Fareast and Canada.

In the UK, he has worked for an industrial multinational conglomerate and UK quoted companies. Earlier on he trained and worked for many years in the City with Coopers & Lybrand who were one of the predecessors to Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Amir is the Company Secretary.

Special Independent Directors

Abimbola Apalara

Abimbola Apalara is a director of Open House Rochester and currently works with Peabody Trust – a charitable organisation since 2014. She has over 20 years experience and held various strategic roles within G15 Housing Associations and multinational companies; providing exceptional leadership and strategic solutions. Abi is a blogger, writer and speaker, she wrote a poem documented as part of “100 Great Black Women Speak”.  She is also a trustee of the London Bubble Theatre. She holds a master’s degree in Housing Management and Policy from the University of Greenwich. Abi is passionate about education, appreciates arts, history, and the natural environment.

Yvonne Luu

Yvonne is a Communications Manager for Peabody, the second-largest housing association in the UK. From Melbourne, Australia, she started her career in government, working on reforming national educational policy.

Yvonne is passionate about diversity and inclusion and in 2020 was named on the global HERoes Future Female Leaders list (sponsored by INvolve and Yahoo Finance) which celebrates 100 inspirational women around the world who are making a significant contribution to workplace gender equality. She holds a BA in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Melbourne and an MA in Communications from RMIT University.

Artistic Patron

Sir Anish Kapoor CBE RA

Anish Kapoor is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading contemporary artists. Since representing Britain at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990, where he was awarded the Premio Duemila and winning the Turner Prize in 1991, he has held major solo exhibitions globally and his work is permanently exhibited in some of the most important international collections and museums.

Renowned for artworks that blur the boundary between sculpture architecture his often monumentally scaled public works include Marsyas, in Tate’s Turbine Hall (2002), Cloud Gate in Millennium Park Chicago; Leviathan at the Grand Palais in Paris (2013); Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Park, London and Ark Nova, the world’s first inflatable mobile concert hall in Japan.

Photo by Jillian Edelstein.