6. Winner - Incognito

The Incognito Exhibition

Last April hundreds of people queued outside the Solomon Fine Art gallery in Dublin for Incognito, a unique fundraising exhibition for the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation. Ireland’s largest single- gallery public art exhibition, it involved around 2,000 original postcard-size artworks being sold on a first-come, first-served basis for €50 each.

Miniature pieces by over 1,000 Irish and international artists were available, but the identity of the artists was only revealed once a purchase was made. Three weeks before the event the pieces were displayed online so people could pick their favourites and try to guess which ones were by artists, such as Tracey Emin, Richard Gorman, Peter Curling and Martin Gale, and which were by William Fry staff.

Creating artwork for Incognito is not where William Fry’s staff engagement ended. Linda Costigan, a personal assistant at William Fry served as the event photographer and Will Dekorte, who works on William Fry’s information technology team, created a video on the event, which was used on the firm’s social media channels.

More than 60 volunteers from the firm donated 168 hours of their time to the four-day event. They welcomed people, helped them to find their chosen pieces and assisted at the tills. “The volunteers were brilliant on the day – they even handed out umbrellas to the people queuing outside in the rain,” says exhibition manager Lucinda Hall.

“Incognito allowed staff members to engage in a creative process in a different way,” says William Fry corporate social responsibility manager Bethany Fiore. “As an organisation, we are keen to promote the idea of using art and creativity to enhance employee wellbeing.” One of the ways William Fry is doing this is by introducing a ‘creativity corner’ in its restaurant.

When the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation was chosen by William Fry staff in 2017 as the law firm’s community charity for three years, Incognito seemed like a natural fit for both partners in terms of working together. “We felt we could contribute a lot by providing PR, communications and event management support. But, most importantly, it gave us an opportunity for staff to get involved in lots of different ways,” says Fiore.

Jack & Jill had experience of the fundraising potential of public arts initiatives through the likes of ‘Pigs on Parade’ and ‘Hares on the March’. Hall got the idea for Incognito from her friend, hairdresser Ian Brady, who used to travel to the UK to buy postcard artworks in a similar format. It took a few years, but, with the help of galleries and other artistic groups to source artists, she got the first event off the ground in 2017.

In order to make the 2018 event run more efficiently, William Fry automated Incognito’s system so the reference numbers for all of the artworks could be uploaded and easily found when purchases were being made. This reduced the waiting time for purchasing from five hours to two hours.

William Fry’s internal communications were focused on three calls to action: firstly the call to artists to participate, then to seek volunteers and thirdly to encourage employees to promote Incognito to their family and friends through social media.

On the PR side, William Fry and its external PR company FleishmanHillard helped to create lists of media outlets to reach out to as well as coming up with pitches.

“We could not have achieved the scale of exposure and media coverage we did without William Fry. RTE interviewed two 17-year olds in the queue who were meant to be at school revising for their Leaving Cert. They said they had to go to the exhibition as they would never have another chance to buy an original picture for €50,” notes Hall.

This year the Incognito project achieved over 3 million media impressions, spanning print, broadcast and social media. It raised more than €95,000, which is providing roughly 6,000 hours of nursing care to Jack & Jill children.

“This was a really great experience for staff because it meant they could talk to people about the work of Jack & Jill and how their money would help children,” notes Fiore. “A lot of the staff brought their own children to the exhibition and allowed them to pick out something they liked. One of the great things about Incognito is that the price point makes art accessible to everyone.”

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