Every fall, Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) and Hickok Cole partner to host Art Night, an annual exhibition and fundraiser that has raised over $1.4 million in support of WPA’s mission and the local arts community. This year, we were challenged to reimagine Art Night for a virtual audience, pivoting to mark our 20th year with a socially-distant, yet highly connected celebration spanning the month of October.

The shift to Art Month required identifying what people love most about Art Night and finding new ways to deliver it virtually. In a year of limited corporate budgets, maintaining legacy sponsors who account for 75% of historical sales was essential. The team decided to focus outreach efforts on Devil and Cherub sponsors, two levels that target individuals, not companies, with discretionary income. Budget saved from traditional expenses like catering went to an upgraded VIP experience, including private tours of a limited gallery and a customized gift box hand-delivered to homes and businesses to express thanks in person.

Simultaneously, the event’s virtual nature allowed us to expand our buyer pool through unexplored channels and audiences. We shook things up with new programming and content, including our first-ever virtual gallery experience – all curated to connect art lovers and potential buyers with local art and the diverse community of creatives behind it who needed their support more than ever.

Art Month 2020 exceeded expectations, raising $115,470 for WPA and DC’s art community and redefining the reach and format of Art Nights to come.


EMAIL CAMPAIGN

Digital invitations were distributed to our general guest list of 3,000 clients, partners, and friends of the firm. The campaign included 9 separate emails distributed over the course of two months: Save The Date, Introducing Art Month, Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate Panel, Gallery Opening, Gallery Opening Reminder, Buying Art, Demystified Panel, Art + Progress Panel, Gallery Closing Reminder, and Event Recap + Thank You. Designers took advantage of the digital medium to incorporate themed imagery and GIFs to make each digital touchpoint unique. Registration for each event was collected through Zoom.

The virtual nature and duration of 2020’s event presented an opportunity to expand the visibility of Art Month and local DC artists beyond Hickok Cole’s office doors. This year’s new multi-channel social media campaign promoted the event’s scheduled programming and online gallery to a broader audience, while spotlighting featured artists and artworks and raising awareness around Washington Project for the Arts, its mission, and the people who’ve contributed to 20 years of impact. Want to see it all? Scroll down our feed and check out our full series of stories in the Art Month 2020 highlight.


MARKETING OBJECTIVES

  • Promote DC arts community to expanded audience
  • Maintain artist impact ($75,000 fundraising goal), client touchpoints, and Art Night energy in virtual format
  • Retain legacy sponsors, secure pre-committed sales ≥$60,000
  • Maintain value of sponsor experience
  • Amplify diverse voices/experiences of artists during COVID
  • Engage local press to promote virtual programming/content
  • 6-month planning process, 2-month campaign, 1-month virtual event
  • Budget: $15,000
  • Results measured by art sales and fundraising dollars

Art is essential to our culture and community – and so is the artist. During a time of social unrest, social change, and social distance, Art Month 2020 provides a worthy distraction addressing all three by connecting like-minded people and companies to support local artists when they need it most.

A new three-part webinar series helped recreate the type of conversations that take place at an in-person event. The virtual programming explored art’s crucial role as a unifier in society through the lens of Art Month’s core supporters—the real estate community, art buyers, and artists—and invited attendees to engage with speakers, ask questions, and learn about featured artists. At the end of the month, webinar recordings were made available to the public with a summary of each event’s key learnings hosted on our website.


VIP PACKAGE

Maintaining value for Art Month sponsors meant bringing the VIP experience to them. Fifty personalized VIP boxes were assembled and hand-delivered to sponsors at their homes or place of business. Each box included our annual collection of custom buttons and cookies in the year’s theme, as well as a face mask, BrüMate champagne flute, and bottle of bubbly to commemorate the event’s 20-year anniversary.


RESULTS

  • Raised $115,470.00—exceeding goal by 54%
  • 8 Devil*, 18 Angel, 11 Cherub* sponsors—generating $90,500 in advance sales*, exceeding goal by 50% (* = new record)
  • Email: 740 average opens (22.5%)
  • Instagram Campaign:
    • 143 new followers (27% of 2020 gain)
    • Increase compared to annual average: Profile visits: 230%; Website clicks: 898%; Impressions: 74%; Reach: 231%
  • 67 works sold, $1,444 average price (34% below, 53% above 10-year average respectively)—demonstrating value of sponsor commitment
  • Webinar Registration/Attendance: #1: 115/67, #2: 98/42, #3: 42/24
  • Events promoted in Washingtonian, washington.org, DCist, Georgetown BID newsletter
  • Budget savings of $2,734

Hosting our first online gallery involved a lot of research to identify the right sales platform. Working with WPA, we decided on Big Cartel for its functionality and financial model. Our goal was to make the site as easy to use as possible for our sponsors, prioritizing the ability to incorporate branded elements, searchability of artwork by artist and price, and a streamlined and easy-to-navigate sales processes. A major benefit of sponsor status is the ability to preview artwork ahead of the gallery launch. To supplement the virtual preview of 200+ pieces for sale, the team curated a limited selection of works at higher price points for an in-person, sponsors-only, and appointment-only gallery experience. Private tours followed strict COVID precautions and were provided by knowledgeable WPA staff for two weeks prior to gallery opening.