Promoting the Opening of the ICA in Spring 2018

Experiential marketing student Nicholas Narro poses with Dr. Reuban Rodriguez, Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students, at Team Ramz’s event on March 29.

Forty Virginia Commonwealth University Experiential Marketing students conducted events all around VCU campus, including the medical campus (MCV), Mar. 29-Apr. 10. The events were to promote the April 21 opening events of the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), to promote ICA awareness, and to collect email addresses for the ICA e-newsletter. The experiential marketing students worked closely with the ICA staff to produce six unique events. The 20’x20′ event footprint included two tents, art activities, and exhibitions. ICA branded t-shirts, color-changing phone wallets, keychains, stickers, and pencils were distributed. In all, the experiential marketing students interacted with several hundred students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors during the events.

The events were part of a semester-long project where students apply event marketing strategies in a real-world setting. The artwork and exhibits were displayed in the VCU School of Business Snead Hall atrium the week leading up to the official opening of the ICA.

Take Time to Reflect

The Image of Team Pantone on their event day with their Snapchat filter.

When it comes to the ICA, the first thing that came to mind was creativity. We knew that with the grand opening of this tremendous addition to Richmond’s art district, our project needed to reflect even a fraction of what visitors were to expect during the grand opening. After listening to the pitch presented by most of our peers, we immediately came to think that maybe our idea was too large. But that’s what the ICA represents. It stands out in comparison from other Contemporary Institutions because it’s willing to take risks and stand out from social norms.

Fourteen long and trivial weeks passed, and group Pantone met multiple obstacles. Whether it was logistics, feasibility, or simple differences in the overall vision, this project was difficult, but nonetheless, an opportunity to learn and grow.

Our inspiration for this project was to take the viewer through a quick but immersive experience offering an escape from their busy life and the opportunity to “reflect” on themselves. This was all inspired by the mission of the Institute for Contemporary Art.

Image of the some of the group members at work putting one of the walls together.

The structure was built for under $100 using upcycled pallets, white poster board, and one roll of 4” x 100” Mylar sheeting, a highly reflective material used for gardening, as well as LED colored lights. It debuted on the MCV campus on April 6th, 2018 after over 2 weeks of physical construction.

We envisioned this to be an experience that would linger in the mind of participants, prompting them to look to the Institute for Contemporary Arts as a resource to engage with art and their community just the same. We believe that the biggest take-away from this project would be the importance of teamwork. This wouldn’t have been possible were it not for our fabulous team, who worked relentlessly to bring this to life.



Team Pantone Curator Biographies:

Marshall Helmick (Team Leader)

Marketing, Concentration: Product and Brand Management | Senior: Graduating May 2018

Joanna Membreno

Marketing, Concentration: Product and Brand Management | Senior: Graduating May 2018

Kathryn Amber Swenson

Marketing, Concentration: Product and Brand Management | Senior: Graduating December 2018

Johann Izquierdo

Marketing, Concentration: Integrated Marketing Communications | Senior: Graduating May 2018

Jeffrey Decker

Marketing, Concentration: Product and Brand Management | Senior: Graduating May 2018

Kevin McCormick

Marketing, Concentration: General Marketing | Senior: Graduating May 2018

Cameron Heggie

Marketing, Concentration: Product and Brand Management |Senior: Graduating May 2018

Andrew Sun

Marketing, Concentration: General Marketing | Senior: Graduating December 2018

radICAl times at VCU

VCU students participating in a paint balloon mural, at an event promoting the grand opening of the ICA

The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was created to inspire students, faculty, and the general public by bringing nationally and internationally respected artists and scholars to the city of Richmond. Our ICA event was intended to be a fun and interactive event that would capture the attention and interest of members of the VCU community, while promoting the grand opening of the ICA. During the event, our team learned to implement experiential marketing tactics to successfully reach our goals, objectives,  and intended audience. Our team quickly learned to expect the unexpected, due to windy weather conditions that knocked over our paint balloon mural several times. Despite our team having reset our mural those few times, the final mural created by the splatter of the paint balloons turned out well, and the mural activity seemed to capture the interest and participation our target audience. Another insight our team learned as a result of our event, was the difficulty of getting people to interact and participate. While we had many people participate and interact with our event, we learned that making eye contact with a person often increased the likelihood of that person approaching our event. Additionally, our team found that people are more likely to approach our event when we engaged the people walking by our event by distributing branded premiums and promoting contest prizes, such as an Ellwood Thompson gift card. Furthermore, we found that people tend to be more willing to approach our event when there were other participants or a group of participants. This helped attract other people, many of whom were were typically too busy to stop at an event, going to and from classes. Throughout the four hour we hosted our event, our team learned to effectively collaborate, communicate, and conduct a branded event that attracted people to learn about what the ICA has to offer.



“Our goal was to host a fun and interactive event that would capture the attention and interest of members of the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) community, while promoting the grand opening of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at VCU. For our event, our team chose to create a paint balloon mural, which comprised of a cork board, wrapped in canvas, and mounted on an easel. Paint filled balloons were attached to the front of the canvas, with the paint colors imitating those of the ICA. Our activity involved participants throwing darts at our paint balloon canvas, attempting to strike the balloons to create a splatter effect mural.”


–       Jonathan Castaneda – Marketing 18’

–       Peter Callahan – Marketing 18’

–       Sultana Khorosh – Marketing 18’

–       Nick Miller – Marketing 18’

–       Margaret Massie – Marketing 18’

–       Jhonny Ortega – Marketing 18’

Wings of Welcome

Team Taco posing in front of their beautiful art project promoting the Institute of the Contemporary Art.

Friends, diversity, clubs, food, love, and independence: these were all words that students used to describe, “What do you love about VCU?” To promote the grand opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), we set up our art project outside of Harris Hall.

The event consisted of two elements– a community art project and a game of cornhole to win prizes. Jack and Spencer drew passerby’s in to participate in the event. One of the main objectives of the event was to compile a mailing list for the ICA newsletter.

The art project was the main idea and most complex aspect of the event. It was very eye-catching and attracted passerby’s because of the large scale of it (6’x9’). Students were each asked to cut out their hand print on colored paper and write something they love about VCU or something that makes them feel welcome here. The end result was a “mural” consisting of all of the hand prints which made the shape of wings, which students could take a photo in front of and utilize our Snapchat geo-filter. This symbolized the collaborative nature of art and that the ICA should be a place that students feel welcome.

There were some challenges that we faced during our event. The set-up ended up being much more time-consuming than we originally intended because we were not able to assemble our large background ahead of time. “Unpredictable weather can be a huge factor when planning for events. The wind almost turned our art project upside down”, said Campbell describing one of the biggest difficulties during the event. Our area also lacked foot traffic during most of the time, but we adapted to this by being extremely proactive in attracting participants during the class-change time.

Overall, this was a great experience for all.

Team Members:

  • John Daley
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Personal Selling & Business Marketing
  • Chase Wells
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Product & Brand Management
  • Samantha Booth
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Product & Brand Management
  • Spencer Loessberg
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Campbell Safian
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Product & Brand Management
  • Teresa Majette
    • Senior majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Integrated Marketing Communications

Visionary Good Friday

Team Vision poses with their string art.

Some of our positive experiences with running this event include exceeding our initial objectives. We had set for a minimum of 50 email sign-ups, but ended with a strong 66 sign-ups in total. We consider this a great achievement considering that our event ran on Good Friday (March 30th) where rain was expected. Another positive was getting a lot of people engaged in learning about the opening of the ICA. We received a lot of questions asking about the block party and what kind of art will be exhibited at the Institute. Getting to interact with faculty and staff from the university, as well as other community members, was another plus, as they also had many questions about who was able to attend, or if it was a family friendly event.

Our experience during this event was that planning is important.  We planned out set up, ways to attract people, and how to give out our premiums very well. We didn’t plan on a stable enough easel to hold our board so we had to lean it on our tables, and we should have also had a way to explain how to put the string on the board correctly so it would stay, since it needed to be tied. We had some struggles in the early morning with the wind factor and the fact that campus doesn’t really experience much foot traffic at 9 o’clock in the morning. The first 30 minutes of our event ran a bit slow, but we were able to get people along to participate in our string art activity through outreach and jenga. After this point we had sporadic periods where there were a lot of people interacting at our tent, and periods of time where there were none.  During the transition times between classes (00:50-01:00) we had a flood of people and got overwhelmed at points.

  • Edward Tindall – Finance and Marketing, Senior

  • Nikki Lett — Marketing, Senior

  • True Kraner – Marketing, Senior

  • Kelly MicKey – Marketing, Senior

  • Katie Lett– Marketing, Senior

  • David Hudgens– Marketing, Senior

  • Jackie Ramirez– Marketing, Senior

Excel-erating towards Opening Day

Team Excelerators setting up our event prior to starting. Each person put in an immense amount of effort to ensure that each part went as fluidly and successfully as possible! From left to right; Cori, Noah, Phil, Claire, Helen, Chris.

After three months of planning, organizing, and strategizing, the day has come, ICA event day. Team Excelerators was ready; we had started planning our event since January and had worked cohesively as a team to create an engaging, exciting, and memorable event.

We were ready. Only one thing could throw us off, Virginia’s infamously unpredictable weather. Unfortunately, our fear came true.

Our biggest setback was that it was 40 degrees and drizzling during our event. Not the ideal weather we were hoping for to get people to come by and check out our tent. With most rainy days on campus, people are only outside when they are hustling to class or to the next place they need to be. Not many are willing to linger and talk to strangers.

However, we did not let this influence our enthusiasm for our event, and especially not our enthusiasm for the opening of the ICA. Still, VCU students from different backgrounds stopped and talk to us.

They were all interested in participating in our engaging activities. Our energy is what really drew the majority of our newsletter sign-ups. Our group was very proactive in spreading awareness of the grand opening and the block party. Once we explained the event, many became very excited and interested in attending the opening events.

The most popular activity we ran was the balloon pop dart throw.

Students loved a chance to win ICA branded prizes if they could successfully pop a balloon. This created a feeling of excitement for our participants, making it easier to draw in more people.

The hands-on aspect of this project truly helped our group get a real sense of operating an experiential marketing event. We were able to apply our course concepts by interacting with our fellow peers.


BIO: Claire Dietrich (Senior Marketing Student), Cori Scales (Senior Marketing Student), Helen To (Senior Marketing Student), Chris Celentano (Senior Marketing Student), Philip Simpson (Senior Marketing Student), Noah Pescara (Senior Marketing Student)

Great Weather, Even Greater Event

VCU students contributing to our board.

On the day of our event, the Compass was filled with excitement, lively music, and people enjoying the good weather. As we were setting up we were approached by multiple people excited about our event. It was great to see this enthusiasm, but was also slightly stressful since we were still trying to set up and wanted to avoid turning away interested people.

An issue we encountered was that we anticipated having more premiums than we actually had, so once we ran out we needed to shift our approach to still engage people and generate interest. Initially, we had planned to have our two tents side by side on the Compass, but due to space constraints, we placed one tent behind the other. As a result, we did not get as much traffic as we were anticipating at our tent with the coloring station and photo booth. However, we had great engagement with our ICA board and individuals who came by were eager to contribute. Not only did we have students come to our event, but we also had professors and faculty come by as well, even Dr. Rodriguez stopped by!

We learned that to effectively connect with people it is important to not stick to one set script, but rather adapt what you’re saying to better resonate with your audience. As a group, we learned that everyone plays an important role and clear communication is key. We also learned that planning every detail ahead of time helps the day of the event run smoothly and allows you to focus on the actual event. Having a large group was a challenge and a definite learning experience for all of us but we learned how to successfully work together and have a successful event.

Darrion Sistrunk – Senior, Marketing

Drake Sandberg – Senior, Marketing with a minor in Economics

Olivia Rumsey – Senior, Marketing Major: Personal Selling

Mary Widmer – Senior, Marketing Major: Product and Brand Management

Nicholas Narro -Senior, Marketing Major : Product and Brand Management

Taylor Watkins – Senior, Marketing Major: Product and Brand Management

Yujin Jeon – Senior, Fashion Merchandising and Marketing: Product and Brand Management


Experiential Marketing Students Promote the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA)

Experiential marketing ICA event on the Snead Hall lawn.

Our Spring 2017 experiential marketing (MKTG 430) students put on small events around VCU campus on April 3, 5, 7, and 11. The events were the students’ semester-long project, where the students designed event activities and execution plans.

The purpose of the events was to promote brand awareness of VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) to VCU students on campus. An additional goal was to collect interested students’ emails to add to the ICA’s electronic newsletter list.

ICA supplied the students with an ICA branded 10’x10′ tent to use, premiums to distribute, and uniform t-shirts. Also, the MKTG 430 students received $500 in EPIC project funding from the School of Business to purchase supplies for their events. There were activities, games and giveaways at each location around campus. The four student groups blogged about their events (below).

Becoming Part of the Arts

Nidaa Badwan, artist featured in ICA’s opening exhibit Declaration, and collaborative art piece made by VCU students.

Upon reflection on our event, we were confident that we had exceeded our goals and expectations of obtaining emails and educating the VCU community on the ICA and their October opening. Beyond the numbers, we were able to offer a better understanding of what the ICA means specifically to VCU students, and therefore provided them with a ‘need’ they were not already aware of.

Our collaborative art project intended to get students to “join the conversation” was especially successful, and students enjoyed spending time using various arts and crafts. A majority of students remarked to us how they don’t spend much time drawing and painting, so the activity presented an opportunity to take a break from their busy schedules. In fact, a lot of students that came up to our table found that they were really interested in the activity and the ICA, many actually returning to the table during their free time between classes.

Even though we felt our event was very successful, there were still a few things that could have improved on. For example, the display of our premiums could have been executed a little better. We noticed that when we attempted to engage students walking by our tents we had to readjust our methods of communication depending on their reaction. Going forward, we understand that as a Brand Ambassador, certain people are going to be more receptive to you than others, so effective targeting is necessary. For example, large crowds would often walk by, and we had to carefully and quickly assess who to approach based our perceived likelihood of their interest.

Overall, we believe our event was successful in sparking many students’ interests in the ICA, and in leaving them more informed about the Institute than they were before.

Team Monday Bio

Josh Elder – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

YonnieB – Senior

Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications

Ashawnna Sawyer – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

Lee Kuykendall – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

Alex Bloom – Senior

Marketing, Product & Brand Management

What’s Your Art?

Dr. Suzanne Makarem, Dr. Wayne Slough, & Dr. Haeran Jae at the ICA event using our Snapchat filter

After almost a whole semester of planning, rehearsing, and perfecting the campaign, our experiential marketing (XM) event was finally underway. We set up our event in the lawn of Snead Hall. When our event began, we noticed it was difficult to pull people in at first, but once we got into the swing of things, everything else fell into place. We used our microphone to pull people in and capitalize on informing students about the ICA. We had a prize wheel where people could spin to win one of the premiums or be entered in a raffle to potentially win our grand prize, the Echo Dot. We had a sheet of paper where everyone could write what art meant to them, and it was interesting to see the different answers, especially coming from business students and faculty. We were supposed to have a person at our event drawing caricatures for people, but they unfortunately could not make it. We also had cornhole set up for students to play if they wanted to stick around our tents for a while. When the crowd died down in between classes, a few of us went inside Snead to try and get people to either come join us outside, or just sign up for the ICA email list. This idea worked wonders in getting the word out about ICA as well as our event. Many students knew about the ICA building, but did not know what the ICA really is or what they are going to offer, and we were happy to fill them in on all of the amazing and cool perks. We had a blast, and we were all able to learn a lot from this experience like how difficult it is to set up and take down all of the heavy equipment, and the struggles of trying to attract people to our event. It was a lot of hard work, but we could not have done it without each other. We came together as a team, and turned a simple email list into an event.


Adonis Fisher (Leader) – Major: Marketing;Management, Year: Senior

Madison Pope – Major: Marketing, Year: Senior

Lindsey Saunders – Major: Marketing , Year: Senior

Victoria Diaz – Major: Marketing, Year: Senior

Tyree Smoote – Major: Marketing;Product and Brand Management, Year: Senior