Steven Cox: the Cause+Affect behind Vancouver Pecha Kucha
“I wrote down 'cause and effect' on a piece of paper,” says Cox. “But 'cause and effect' is just like action and reaction – so we changed it to 'cause and affect', which is action with a purpose.” VO's newest thing: Download the interview.
And so we convinced them to do 'Fuse'. With Fuse, the idea was to turn the gallery into a social space, a party space. I remember that we said people might come to the gallery and not look at the art and that's okay. The staff at the VAG were pretty uncomfortable with that idea. They said, wait a minute. Why would we want people to come in here and not look at the art? We want to increase their appreciation of art, we don't want them to just come in here and have beer and ogle each other.
So we said, let's do three events. So we had agreement to do three parties.
L: You put on the party? You put out a mailing list?
S:No, we helped ...They knew people, we created the concept, named it and designed the graphic identity for it. We curated the event itself, brought in the DJ, brought in the entertainment. Came up with the concept of how it would work, how people would move through the gallery.
L: So you weren't designing, you were curating an event.
S:Yes, well that's where design comes from. We understand the physical experience and know how to create something that people can get engaged with, and it's also about how to communicate that. That's really where we began growing as a brand and marketing company. We didn't just create the idea, we named it, we sold it to the general public, we branded it.
L: How did you connect with the people you wanted to get?
S: I think it's just the thing that we did with Movers and Shapers. We just had kind of tapped into a scene. You just pay attention, what are the cool magazines, who's doing what etc. You don't have to get that many new people to show up before this spiderweb thing happens.
L: How many people showed up?
S: Well they were hoping to get 250 and 1,200 showed up. It was a total nightmare, they sold out everything, there wasn't even a leaf of lettuce left. It was like a hurricane had gone through. Staff there were totally overwhelmed. It was amazing, it was great.
Then we did two more for them, which were huge successes. Everyone thought it was a great thing, and then the VAG was like, OK, I think we can take it from here. And they have run with it. I think it's gone through its its ups and downs. But it has the trump card, right? It has the venue.
L: did it create a young audience for them?
S: Absolutely. I would argue it's the single most important thing they did as an organization with regard to audience participation. They have improved their curatorial drastically since Kathleen took over, but it was that event that made them cool.
We learned a couple of things from that event. We learned that people want social activities with cultural significance. In London, every cultural event was social. Drinking is part of everything. It didn't matter if you went to the opera ... because drinking is a significant thing ... and it's fun.
Here, there is a real separation between the cultural events like lectures, art openings. Things were not that fun, kind of, but not that fun. Then there are the fun things like bands and movies or Canucks games, which is fun, but you didn't walk away from it smarter. And I think what we did with Fuse ,we gave people the ability of engaging in a social thing, where they might actually walk away from it and feel like culturally richer.
L: Did you guys want to do that?
S: Fuse gave us another thing. It gave us the confidence to talk to clients about anything. We were able to talk to clients about branding, which is eventually what we became, a branding company.
We didn't set out for that, it just kind of happened. I think we're a more authentic branding company because we kind of backed into it. Most branding companies are graphic design companies that are trying to expand their services, or marketing companies that are trying to be taken more seriously. But we just started providing services and suddenly people were like, “what do you do”? And we were like, “I don't know, we do this and this and this. What do you need?” I guess that's ... branding. But it was never our goal.
L: so how long until Pecha Kucha happened?
S: It was a couple years until Pecha Kucha happened.