Contemporary Art Academy

Contemporary Art Academy is an online art educational initiative offering courses to practicing artists, co-founded by Zavier Ellis & Mathew Gibson.  


Contemporary Art Academy is home to an award-winning faculty of industry professionals and leading artists, each with a valuable network of professional connections. They have a wealth of experience in the contemporary art arena as practicing artists, curators, gallerists, art writers, magazine editors and educators. Our faculty consists of specialists in Personal Practice, Critical Context and Professional Practice.

Personal Practice

Kiera Bennett

Lead Artist

Kiera Bennett is a practicing contemporary artist and has recently relocated to Southend-on-Sea. She continues to teach in London and is represented by CHARLIE SMITH LONDON. Kiera has work in various leading corporate, private and artist collections globally, including David and Serenella Ciclitira, Arthur G Rosen, Julian Opie, Cornelia Parker and Soho House.  

Kiera studied at The Royal College of Art and The Ruskin School, Oxford University. Since graduating from the RCA in 2002 she has consistently exhibited both nationally and internationally. Kiera was a member of Rockwell Gallery and Studios, Dalston Lane, London, 2002 – 2007. Rockwell was an artist run project space and studio complex that exhibited over 200 artists. The Hackney based collective showcased the work of emerging artists; rare and unseen projects of established artists; projects by particularly exciting curators; and occasionally work by Rockwell’s own members. Kiera has also co-curated exhibitions including In Memoriam Francesca Lowe, Old Truman Brewery, London (2017); The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – 22 painters (2016); and The Beard (2011) – both at CHARLIE SMITH LONDON. Kiera has also been co-selector of the Barbican Arts Group Trust / ArtWorks Open with Graham Crowley (2011) and Reece Jones (2012). 

Kiera has extensive teaching experience. For the past 15 years she has been Fine Art tutor at City and Guilds of London Art School, teaching across the BA and MA Fine Art courses. She has also been visiting lecturer at art schools including Chelsea College of Art, Norwich School of Art, Camberwell Art School, The Ruskin School, Oxford University, University of Bedfordshire and through the Cocheme Fellowship at Byam Shaw School of Art, taught on their Post Graduate course. Kiera has also been a mentor on the Turps studio programme. 

Sam Jackson

Lead Artist

Sam Jackson is represented by CHARLIE SMITH LONDON and Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt. He graduated from the Royal Academy Schools, London with a Post-Graduate Diploma Fine Art in 2007 having completed his BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Middlesex University in 2003. 
Sam has exhibited widely, including Saatchi Gallery, London; The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich; Walker Art Museum, Liverpool; Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth; Dean Clough, Halifax; Galerie Robert Drees, Berlin; Galerie Rigassi, Bern; Koraalberg Contemporary Art Gallery, Antwerp; and Mark Moore Gallery, LA. His work is placed in prominent private collections globally including Javier Baz, Denver; Glen Luchford, New York; David Roberts, London; Sir Norman Rosenthal, London; and Kay Saatchi, Los Angeles. 
Sam has extensive teaching experience, from school age to Masters. He has taught GCSE, A-level, BTEC, Foundation, BA (Hons) and Masters. He currently teaches MA Painting at Arts University Bournemouth, a course which he co-wrote with artist and Associate Professor Dominic Shepherd. 

Critical Context

Hettie Judah

Guest Lecturer

Hettie Judah is the chief critic on the daily newspaper the i, a columnist for Apollo magazine, a contributing editor to The Plant, and writes regularly for the Guardian, Vogue, Frieze, the New York Times and a number of magazines with ‘art’ in the title. Recent and upcoming books include Lapidarium (John Murray/Penguin, 2022), How Not to Exclude Artist Mothers (and other parents) (Lund Humphries, 2022), Frida Kahlo (Laurence King, 2020) and Art London (ACC Art Books, 2019).  

Hettie regularly talks about art and with artists for museum and gallery events, and has been a visiting lecturer for Goldsmiths University, London and Dauphine University, Paris. A supporter of Arts Emergency she has mentored artists and students through a variety of different schemes. As a broadcaster Hettie can be heard (and sometimes seen) on programmes including BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Art That Made Us. She is currently working on a Hayward Touring exhibition. 

Emily Steer

Guest Lecturer

Emily Steer is a London-based arts and culture journalist. She was online editor and then editor of pioneering biannual art magazine Elephant for eight years, and has written for titles the Telegraph, Wallpaper*, i-D, AnOther, Vice, Grazia, Marie Claire and Time Out.

In her time as a journalist, she has interviewed industry leading artists including Marina Abramović, Tim Walker, David Bailey and Theaster Gates. She has appeared on BBC shows Front Row and The Art of Now and hosted panel discussions for institutions such as The Royal Academy and The Arts Club.

She is currently training to be a psychodynamic psychotherapist at The Tavistock and Portman Clinic in London and has experience working with clients around suicidal ideation and sexual trauma. Her studies will lead to membership of the British Psychoanalytic Council.

Professional Practice

Zavier Ellis

Guest Lecturer

Zavier Ellis was born in Windsor in the United Kingdom in 1973. He read History of Modern Art at Manchester University (1993-1996) before undertaking a Masters in Fine Art at City & Guilds of London Art School (2003-2005).  

Zavier has a multi-layered approach to the art industry. He is the founder and director of CHARLIE SMITH LONDON, a curatorial gallery project that runs off-site exhibitions in diverse locations. He was also co-founder and co-curator of the independent and annual show THE FUTURE CAN WAIT (2007-2017), which between 2011 and 2014 was organised in partnership with Saatchi’s New Sensations. THE FUTURE CAN WAIT was the largest exhibition of its kind globally. Zavier also curates a regular exhibition called Young Gods, which is his personal selection of London graduates and postgraduates. In response to recent global events Zavier launched the online work on paper initiative PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA during the first lockdown; and the Ukraine Support Pledge with Matthew Burrows MBE to raise funds by selling artwork for the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.   

Zavier has curated exhibitions internationally including in Berlin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Klaipėda, London, Los Angeles, Naples and Rome; and continues to place work in notable collections globally. Known as an acute talent spotter Zavier has identified and exhibited a number of important young artists directly from art college who have gone on to considerable success with galleries, museums and collectors.   

Zavier also collects and maintains a studio practice, and as such has exhibited at Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Pera Museum, Istanbul; Saatchi Gallery, London; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Klaipėda Culture Communication Centre, Klaipėda; Royal West Academy, Bristol; Dean Clough, Halifax; Paul Stolper, London; Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt; Raid Projects, Los Angeles; and ENIA Gallery, Pireas. His work is featured in prominent private collections including the seminal Sammlung Annette und Peter Nobel, Zurich and Beth Rudin DeWoody, West Palm Beach.  

Zavier sits on various selection committees and juries and is co-founder of Contemporary Art Academy. He has delivered many talks and seminars including Masterpiece Art Fair, Arts University College at Bournemouth, Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers, London Art Fair, Chelsea College of Arts, Aesthetica Magazine, Griffin Gallery, King’s College, London and City & Guilds of London Art School. 

In 2014 Zavier published the iArtBook 100 London Artists with renowned art critic and historian Edward Lucie-Smith.  

Andrew Etherington

Guest Lecturer

Andrew Etherington is a former Northerner who has cobbled together a living from the art world for the last 16 years. 

He has worked variously as a gallerist, dealer, researcher, art technician, writer and market stall holder, and was a PhD dropout before taking over as Gallery Director at Bermondsey Project Space in 2020. In that role he has supported artists at all stages of their career to stage projects on their own terms, from working with established names to create commercially successful solo exhibitions, to mentoring graduate artists to secure funding and hold sell-out events.

Previously Andrew has collaborated with West-End galleries to stage touring exhibitions by their artists outside of London, organised retrospectives by outsider industrial artists at regional museums, and has given several artists who have gone on to have international success their first solo shows. He is also a committed collector, focusing on contemporary printmaking and works on paper.

Andrew holds an MA in Museum and Gallery Studies from Newcastle University and has lead workshops and seminars on the practicalities of exhibiting for artists and curators, alongside mentoring practicing artists on their professional development.

Jade Mitchell

Guest Lecturer

Jade is a coach for creatives with a background in the contemporary art world. She set up Blank Canvas Coaching in 2019 after qualifying as a Relational Dynamics 1st coach and is also a practitioner of Positive Intelligence mental fitness and mindfulness.  

Jade previously managed contemporary artists, helping them gain international recognition and commercial success. She worked for galleries as Head of Artist Relations including Haunch of Venison (London, Zurich, Berlin, New York). Jade has also worked for artists directly, including as a consultant for Joana Vasconcelos, one of Portugal’s best-known artists, and as Director of Jonathan Yeo’s studio. This involved curating exhibitions with international museums and galleries to raise profile and commercial value.   

Jade understands the pressures of the competitive commercial art world and brings to coaching a deep knowledge of the challenges faced by individuals, such as confidence, focus, motivation, and self-doubt. She combines the knowledge and experience from her background in the art world with coaching skills and a positive, solution-focused mindset, to benefit many highly creative people.