An arts organization pivots to stage a virtual digital festival…on a wing and a prayer.
As we realized what was happening with the pandemic in early 2020, my business, FWD Action, was suddenly changed. Businesses of all types that were typically in-person had to find a new way to service their customers. How to pivot our business to digital was the big looming question.
My organization helped five businesses in those early days. One of these was a very interesting pivot which I like to use as a case study of what can be done with imagination and hard work.
My clients at the Copperbridge Foundation, an international art non-profit had a particularly difficult pivot–for their 10th anniversary, they had planned to have 10 in-person events with artists, architects, and dancers from all over Latin America. Realizing that this would not be a possibility, and not knowing when it could happen, if ever, we sat down and brainstormed some ideas before finally arriving at the incredible catalog of work that the Foundation had amassed during its 10 years, a catalog that included paintings, sculpture, documentary films, short films, etc. This is how an online, virtual international arts festival came into existence.
There were many hurdles to overcome, like trying to figure out the best way to show the art, architecture, film, and dance we were featuring, coordinating subject matter experts from around the globe, getting the word out, and all this, did I mention, on an extremely limited budget! We decided to host our events on Zoom, which immediately brought up a huge problem: any of our panelists and subject matter experts were located in Cuba and, just at the last minute, Zoom became blocked in Cuba! But where there’s a will there’s a way! Thankfully, the Swiss embassy in Havana graciously stepped in offering their help, and in collaboration with them hosting our experts, we were able to pull off (almost) perfect Zoom sessions. We also worked with the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Miami, MCAD (Miami Center for Architecture and Design), ICADS (International Coalition of Art Deco Societies), Arch Daily, and other prominent organizations–the list is huge and it doesn’t hurt that the founder is very well connected! What I have witnessed is that during this awful time, people and organizations have started collaborating a lot more and not necessarily in the silos, we are accustomed to seeing.
From September 2020 to April 2021, we produced international live events such as Chilean Architectural Design, which included the world premiere of Travel Into Chile, a documentary highlighting some of Chile’s most outstanding architecture, architects, and designers. Others included very high-impact events such as Cuban Architecture: The New Movement, a panel and discussion with young architects working in Cuba and abroad, and what they have been doing repurposing existing structures. And a discussion of the works of Francisco Salamone, an Argentine architect who built more than 60 municipal buildings with elements of Art Deco style in 25 rural communities on the Argentine Pampas within the Buenos Aires Province. This particular event fostered and furthered the discussion of receiving a designation from the UNESCO World Heritage organization.
With panelists from as far away as Japan, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, and the United States and with over 3,000 attendants throughout all events,. the results actually were much better and far-reaching than we ever thought possible. By leveraging social media extensively, using FB Live, and Zoom to broadcast our live events, we were able to reach people in all corners of the world. A pretty remarkable feat and one that would never have happened without being forced to reimagine the entire idea of an arts festival.
Responsibility and the Business of Change