Efforts by a commercial real estate company to support the arts are going online to observe 25 years of cultural initiatives, with a campaign that encourages artists to share their work digitally.
The company, Brookfield Office Properties, has been cultivating good will since 1988 through its cultural arm, Arts Brookfield, which puts on free events and sponsors free exhibitions in the public spaces of Brookfield buildings in Australia, Canada and the United States. Those efforts began, according to the company, at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, which was recently renamed Brookfield Place.
The centerpiece of the campaign, called Art Set Free, is a microsite, or special website, where work is being displayed. Artists ages 18 and older are being asked to submit contributions — “visual, sound, movement, all genres, media and styles” — by sharing them in social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #artsetfree; Arts Brookfield then peruses the submissions and uploads them, assuming the content meets acceptability standards, to the special website.
The campaign began on Oct. 15 and is scheduled to run through December 2014. So far, almost 2,000 submissions have been received from more than 350 artists in more than 50 countries. Some of the initial submissions have also been compiled on video in addition to their presence on the microsite.
The artists’ work will also have a presence in the real world, on large digital screens in Brookfield buildings in seven cities: Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Perth and Sydney in Australia. The first installation went live on Wednesday at Brookfield Place Winter Garden.
The campaign also includes advertising, video clips, marketing on-site at Brookfield properties and a public relations effort. The budget is estimated at $ 150,000.
The campaign is being created for Arts Brookfield by Phil & Company, an agency in New York that specializes in cause marketing and cause-related marketing. Phil & Company has enlisted notable artists to help promote the campaign, among them Bill T. Jones, the choreographer, director and dancer; Victor Micallef, a member of the singing group the Tenors; Brian Stokes Mitchell, the singer and actor; and the choreographer and dance teacher Elizabeth Streb.
“Join us,” Mr. Jones urges in a video. “Set your art free with the hashtag #artsetfree.” Other entreaties to artists to participate in the Art Set Free campaign include “Give the voice in your head a megaphone.”
The goal of Arts Brookfield, which produces more than 400 events a year, is to “deepen our relationship with tenants, visitors, shoppers, diners,” says Debra Simon, vice president and artistic director of Arts Brookfield, who is based at the Brookfield Office Properties corporate office in New York.
Rather than produce another event for the 25th anniversary, Ms. Simon says, “we wanted to do something that would grow the Arts Brookfield brand” as well as foster stronger engagement with the various constituencies.
And “we wanted to come up with an innovative way to use technology to celebrate” the anniversary, she adds.
“With Phil & Company, we came up with the idea of Art Set Free,” Ms. Simon says, an exercise in “user-generated content” that “allows us to work with thousands of artists instead of a handful.”
“The quality has been extremely high” in the submissions to date, she adds, “and there’s been a tremendous amount of diversity in what we’ve seen.”
“There are a lot of talented people out there,” Ms. Simon says, adding that a large number of the submissions so far have been from Berlin, New York, Paris and Mexico City, as well as Cape Town, South Africa, and Mumbai, India.
It is “absolutely a possibility” that artists who are taking part in Art Set Free may be asked to participate in an Arts Brookfield event or program at a Brookfield building, Ms. Simon says, in the form of an exhibition or a show.
At Phil & Company, there is no actual “Phil.” Rather, say Gary Zarr and Cliff Sloan, co-principals at the agency, the name stands for “Philanthropy” as well as “companies doing good.”
“We began working with Arts Brookfield last year,” Mr. Zarr says, “taking a 360-degree look at the brand, and did some research into how well known it was in the arts community in New York and around the country.”
The findings, Mr. Sloan said, were that awareness of Arts Brookfield “is pretty low.” Countering that is the purpose of Art Set Free, which Mr. Zarr describes as “an attempt to elevate Arts Brookfield as one of the patrons of the arts.”
The campaign is meant to be “a self-sustaining, organic content campaign,” Mr. Zarr says, adding that the “superscreen” installations in the Brookfield buildings are “an incentive for the artists to contribute, by giving a physical presence” to the campaign.
Mr. Sloan calls the campaign’s name a signal that Arts Brookfield wants to “give visibility, free exposure, to up-and-coming artists, free of conventional restraints.”
“We hope that in 2014 there’ll be more notable people we can get involved in the campaign,” he says, in addition to the artists who appear in the introductory video.
“When you talk to people like Bill T. Jones about the importance of public art, they’re passionate,” he adds.
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