October 1, 2012
By Brigitte Graf '13
The Peoria Art Guild is partnering with Bradley students this year for some artistic inspiration in publicizing its 50th annual Fine Art Fair.
The eight students in Dr. Ron Koperski's COM 391 course, Publicity and the Arts, are operating like a public relations firm to help the Art Guild target local businesses and promote the fair, scheduled for Sept. 29 and 30.
He came up with the idea last semester for the unique class when he learned the fair would celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The course itself began Aug. 1, prior to the start of the fall semester, and will wrap up a month after the fair. This fact alone presents a different challenge for the students enrolled.
"Not only is this a non-traditional, collaborative, experiential learning opportunity, but it's also in a completely non-traditional time frame," Dr. Koperski said. "It takes the students out of the typical classroom environment and puts them in the real world."
To better reach the fair's audience, the students researched local businesses and their clientele to find those who would be inclined to support or attend the fair. Students then visited the businesses armed with cards, posters and yard signs promoting the upcoming event and pitched the idea of businesses donating items or becoming sponsors for the event.
"This is going to help the Art Guild for future years, knowing what companies to talk to and building up their directory," said Shaunessy Weiby, a senior in public relations and marketing who is one of the students in the class.
Bunny Randall, a board member with the Art Guild, said the students have offered a new and effective way to get the word out on the Fine Art Fair.
"It's been a valuable experience," said Randall. "The students bring a youthful perspective to our marketing activities and we find Dr. Koperski's experience and humor to be both instructive and fun.
The class also created an original promotion on Facebook. Ten companies were invited post information about the fair on their Facebook page and receive free tickets for doing so.
"We put cards and posters up at various companies promoting the event, but we also now can reach out through social media," Dr. Koperski said. "It's not just a Bradley class collaborating with the Peoria community on the subject of the arts, but it's also an opportunity for those companies to expand their own presence in social media. They multiple their base of customers."
Throughout the course, the students have experienced all facets of the public relations world. They have conducted demographic research, developed a targeted marketing plan and connected with companies and sponsors through face-to-face interaction.
Another one of the students, senior public relations major Abigail McCullers, is excited about the prospect of having such a stand-out experience under her belt.
"I want to go into conference services, so I figured this would be really great experience to have concrete things to talk about on my resume," McCullers said. "Bradley tries to do these things more so than other schools."
The Fine Art Fair took place along Peoria's downtown riverfront and will feature original work for sale from 150 artists from across the United States and Canada.