KAFFEINE / Arts & Culture, Placemaking, Public Relations, Visual Arts

Straight White Male: Turning outrage into debate around public art

5 April 2023

Artichoke, one of the UK’s leading public arts organisations, tasked Kallaway to help it maximise awareness of The Gallery, a major new public art institution without walls in partnership with the out-of-home advertising industry.

The Gallery commissions work that addresses topical cultural issues, which is exhibited on thousands of outdoor advertising sites across the UK. The goal is to spark and democratize debate around these issues in a highly public manner. 

The first season saw 10 contemporary artists selected through an open call to respond to the theme Straight White Male, with works covering everything from gender identity, power, menstruation and masculinity being displayed on the nation’s high streets and bus stops.  

We knew that the exhibition would get a reaction from the public and sections of the press alike and some would question its role, purpose, and value of public funds. To harness this interest and enable the central purpose of the exhibition to shine, we developed a communications strategy that articulated why exhibiting work in this manner is a powerful and necessary cultural and public response around issues linked to life and society in the UK today. 

Our strategy maximised earned media and paid media:

  • The earned press campaign profiled the 10 participating artists and gave a platform for Artichoke and curators to explain the mission behind The Gallery. 
  • Our digital and contextual advertising engaged individuals who looked for information about The Gallery online.  This not only helped drive visitors to The Gallery website but also would provide a counterbalance to any negative news – sitting next to news reports online and directing people to the website for more information. 

Artichoke’s own social media backed up our central press messaging to provide a robust and cohesive argument to the campaign. 

As expected, commentators in sections of the national press had strong views about the exhibition. We used our expertise to help take the heat out of the situation by guiding the media and coverage back to The Gallery's main mission of sparking debate.  

Our campaign clearly communicated The Gallery’s messages and attracted 10,000 people to visit its website to find more. Our work also helped triple the number of artist submissions for the second season on the theme, ‘The State We’re In’ that launched on 31 January with a media partnership with The Guardian.

Anna Vinegrad, Communications Director, Artichoke said: “We knew that “Straight White Male” had the potential to provoke a strong response. Kallaway helped us manage and mitigate the reaction from sections of the media. The positive response to Season two has helped us reach our goal of showing the value of using public art in unexpected places to stimulate meaningful debate. We have a firm foundation for Season three – “No But Where Are You Really From” – opening in September 2023.”

Image credit: Anything you can do, I can do bleeding, Nichola Irvine. The Gallery, Season 1, 2022. Produced by Artichoke.