Making Connections in “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern”

One thing we’ve learned through all our ASK pilots and testing is that people love an incentive. Free drink tickets finally helped us to attract app traffic on Target First Saturdays, and even further back, the promise of free coffee was used to invite test users.

O'Keeffe visitors 1

“Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” was immediately well-attended, but not many visitors were using ASK in the show.

When we realized that we weren’t reaching as many visitors to Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern as we’d like to, we thought about ways to pique their interest about the app. One solution? A contest.

We tested this concept in early May and began running it on a weekly basis after our recent pilot testing.

We promoted our app contest with these cards featuring the cover of the exhibition publication.

The ASK Ambassadors have been handing out dedicated flyers explaining the contest: visitors are encouraged to make their own “creative connections” within the exhibition, by choosing pairs of objects that share an idea or a visual motif. They send photos of the two objects, with a brief explanation for their choice (and their email address, in case they win and we need to contact them!). The prize is a free copy of the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern publication, an incentive that seems to entice visitors to give the contest a try.

Behind the scenes, the ASK Team compiles the entries and chooses a weekly winner. To guide the process, we’ve established a set of criteria. A winning entry should do several of the following things:

1. Connect works in different media (e.g., a photograph and a garment)
2. Connect works from different galleries
3. Connect works from different decades or eras in O’Keeffe’s life
4. Go beyond the pairs already staged in the exhibition by our curators
5. Offer a thoughtful or even humorous explanation.

GOK Fashion Hat Photo

Some contest entries were straightforward visual comparisons, like this early fashion illustration by O’Keeffe paired with a late photograph of the artist.

So far, we’ve had an average of 25 entrants per week. Even though we’re very familiar with the exhibition at this point, some of the object pairs have truly surprised us! Entrants have made comparisons that are formal, biographical, or thematic—or more than one of the above.

GOK Blouse and Pansy

This contest entry made a more subtle analogy between two objects created by O’Keeffe, the ruffled decoration on a blouse and the forms of a painted flower: “The pin tucks in her blouse and the tonal shadings so elegantly reflect the painting.”

We’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s clever and enthusiastic entries, and it’s always fun to notify a person that they’ve been chosen as the week’s top pick. So far, our winners have come from California, New Jersey, Vermont, Manhattan, and our own borough of Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, the first week of the contest doubled our app traffic in this exhibition, and as the contest has continued, there are weeks when more than half our total chats are coming from the O’Keeffe galleries.

GOK Skyscraper Skull

This visitor wrote, “These two both have a living flower next to something *not* living that O’Keeffe could see from her window.”

Even in everyday app chats, we like hearing what our users have to say about art, and this contest has offered a more focused situation for them to share their ideas—while once again proving the appeal of contests, games, and creative challenges.

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