The Art Series Hotel Group on successful arts partnerships
The Art Series Hotel Group is different from many commercial enterprises that partner with the arts; supporting arts and culture is essential to its business model.
Art Series Hotel Group has seven hotels across Melbourne, Bendigo, Adelaide and Brisbane. Each hotel is named after, dedicated to and inspired by an Australian contemporary artist and features original works throughout – think Dr John Olsen, Adam Cullen and Charles Blackman. And it doesn’t end there! The group also has a league of great partnerships happening behind the scenes.
We spoke with Olivia Donati, Brand Partnership Strategist at Art Series Hotel Group about the organisation’s commitment to culture and the arts.
What are you currently…
Watching? I’m currently watching the US election closely… it’s like a car crash. I can’t look away even though I want to.
Reading? I’m re-reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt for the third time. I enjoy it more and more each time I read it and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Eating? As the summer sun is just starting to shine in Melbourne I’m all about a beautiful gelato. Even when there is only a sliver of sun you will hear me using it as an excuse to grab a scoop or two. My favourites are from Pidapippo in Carlton or Spring Street Grocer in Melbourne CBD.
Arts Series Hotel Group has a proud and strong tradition of supporting the arts. Tell us about some of your favourite partnerships and how they came to be?
It is a really nice and organic fit for Art Series Hotel Group to support the arts and we find that our arts based partnerships really resonate with our community. The best partnerships are those that have purpose and that make sense to each partner’s respective market. A strong example of this is with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) whom we have partnered with for the John Olsen The You Beauty Country exhibition on now until February 2017.
Naturally we wanted to support Dr.John Olsen and share in this huge celebration with him. We have been lucky to be able to work closely with the passionate team at the NGV to bring this partnership to life in many ways including a bespoke accommodation and ticket package, as well as intimate events held at both the NGV and The Olsen. Some of our other partnerships have started because of accommodation needs but have quickly grown into larger activations.
A great example of this is with Etsy. In 2015 we partnered on Etsy at The Cullen, a concept that saw us collaborating with Etsy, top Melbourne-based creative team Marsha Golemac and Brooke Holm and almost thirty of Etsy’s makers, finders and designers to take over a hotel room at The Cullen in a truly Etsy way.
Art is very much a part of the group’s business model. You’ve just opened a new hotel in Brisbane – how do you go about identifying, scoping and securing new partnerships from the ground up that will align with your brand?
Art is at the forefront of everything we do and this extends to partnerships. When looking for suitable Brisbane arts partners we did a lot of research. We flew to Brisbane to explore the arts scene and meet with potential partners and from there we created a wish list based on the opportunities that existed.
We have been really lucky to have forged great relationships so quickly and we have already secured a handful of influential and inspirational Brisbane arts partners. These include Brisbane Powerhouse, QUT Art Museum, La Boite Theatre and Flying Arts Alliance, and we are so thrilled to be able to support each of these organisations in some capacity. We will continue to identify needs and opportunities in this new market, as we do with all markets, as we feel that it is important to never let a good opportunity fly by.
What makes a partnership the right fit? What are you are looking for and how do you measure success?
We have a range of different partnerships and they can be quite varied in terms of how we partner, what we offer and what we are offered in return. We always look for brand alignment – making sure that our brand will sit well alongside our partner and vice versa. We also want to make sure that each party has something to gain from the partnership and that we can offer support as well as quantifying a need. Success can be measured in various ways depending on our objectives and can be as simple as measuring bums in beds or trickier if we are trying to measure brand awareness.
What are your top three tips for arts organisations looking to approach commercial partners or sponsors?
I would recommend having clear objectives. Let the commercial partner understand how they can assist you.
For us, this is often through accommodation, conferencing/event needs and publicity. I would also recommend that you understand the business needs and determine how you can assist the commercial partner in meeting their own objectives (after they have shared them with you, of course).
Finally, I think that a lot of the success of a partnership comes down to the people behind it. Being warm, open and friendly in your approach pays off as an authentic relationship between partners makes for a much more enjoyable working relationship. As they say, a smile goes a long way.
It’s always important to be on the pulse in terms of what your counterparts and potential partners are doing, both here and overseas. Are there any activations or partnerships you’ve encountered that have blown you away, or made you think about approaching things a little differently?
It’s interesting to keep one eye open to what our competitors are doing both here and overseas but I often find inspiration in other fields and industries in addition to the world of hotels. For hotel partnerships I find the most inspiration overseas.
I think this may also have something to do with the central place that hotels play as meeting places in many larger cities overseas. It is common practice to dine in hotels and make use of all of their facilities, even if you are a local.
This is not so much the case here in Australia although we do try and do this with some partnerships which invite our community into our space for artist talks, workshops and unique experiences. In terms of being blown away, just this week I have fallen in love with an activation in the foyer of the National Gallery of Victoria. The piece, The Moving Garden by Lee Mingwei invites gallery-goers to pick a flower and then gift it to a stranger.
I love the simplicity of this activation yet it is also quite thought-provoking. Who ever knew that gifting a flower to a stranger could be slightly intimidating? But the joy from being on the receiving end of this unexpected act of generosity makes it all worthwhile.
Any exciting developments we can look out for from Arts Series in the next few years?
We have a lot of exciting projects that we are currently working on behind closed doors including two additions to the family. There really is never a dull moment over at Art Series!
What three words would you use to describe Art Series Hotel Group?
Unique, inspired and authentic.