Cube project a success

By HermineBloom

Not unlike wrapped presents on Christmas, 500 6-square-inch red cubes are scattered throughout the city in inconspicuous places with a surprise inside waiting for artists and everyday city dwellers alike. In an effort to promote the Modern Wing and their campaign for “500 Ways to Look at Modern,” The Art Institute planned the scavenger hunt to generate more curiosity for the Modern Wing and ultimately host a special exhibit showcasing the cube-inspired projects.

All Chicagoans are encouraged to find a cube and register it online in order to receive a prompt. Traveling with the cube, giving the cube away and creating original art based on a memory you have of spending time at The Art Institute of Chicago are all examples of project assignments, said Art Institute Marketing Director Gary Stoppelman.

“We wanted a campaign that would build on the momentum that we started with the Modern Wing,” Stoppelman said. “To continue to deliver the experience of what it’s like to be here at The Art Institute on the street. So we brought that experience to the street and to the Internet.”

As of Jan. 27, 319 out of 500 cubes have been found, according to the 500 red cubes page on The Art Institute’s Web site, which Stoppelman called an “extraordinary response rate.”

 The message board on gives those who participate a chance to post photos, comments, lost cube notices and much more.

Spectacular, 8-foot cubes are publicly recognizable at Navy Pier, in front of NBC Studios and next to The Wit Hotel. The cube at Ogilvie Transportation Center is a 2-dimension floor decal that appears 3-dimensional when viewed from a particular angle. The rest of the small cubes are peeking out from window displays or sitting atop odd Chicago landmarks, Stoppelman said.

Initially, The Art Institute teamed up with Energy BDDO, an ad agency based in Chicago, to come up with a comprehensive ad campaign for “500 Ways to Look at Modern,” which was successful because of The Art Institute’s pre-existing fanbase.

“When you’re working with a company or a brand like The Art Institute, you’re working with something that people really know well, really love and already have interest in,” said Kevin Lynch, creative lead at Energy BDDO. “So a lot of things that you typically have hurdles for in marketing we

didn’t have.”

What the folks at Energy BDDO had to do, however, was find a way to reconnect the people with The Art Institute if it wasn’t on the top of their minds, Lynch explained.

The interaction has to do with scavenging for a cube, then registering the cube online and finally doing the assignment. The assignments ranged from dealing with social media, where the owner of a cube had to change their job description to “Cubefinder at The Art Institute,” to asking the participant to take the cube to as many different states as possible.

Cube No. 93, or the WXRT cube, asked its participants to submit a song that reminded them of the Modern Wing, Stoppelman said. So far, 389 songs were submitted.

“It’s taken on a life of it’s own,” Stoppelman said.

Marketing Coordinator Connie Reyes, 24, struggled to obtain the cube she spotted atop a large window display in Pioneer Court next to the Wrigley Building. When she finally did, however, the cube’s instructions were to give it away.

Reyes said she was heartbroken that she had to pass on the cube after climbing up a window display and getting in trouble with her boss.

Ellen Gradman, on the other hand, was able to use the red cube to foster childrens’ imaginations through her freelance art classes called Spark Your Art.

Though she did not find the cube herself, Gradman said she did obtain a cube from the message board on the 500 cubes page on The Art Institute’s Web site from someone who wanted to give it away.

Gradman’s 13-year-old nephew, who wasn’t able to attend his aunt’s class on the day the cubes were introduced, learned about the project and began writing his own graphic novel revolving around a cube and his adventures, she said.

The art that the students produced will be on display at The Art Institute for the special exhibit designed for the cube art in spring 2010, along with many other pieces from others who have participated in the city-wide exploration of what “modern” means to them.



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