FCB helps the MCA bring 1979 to life in Wicker Park

Eric Lessens in the MCA pop-up experience by FCB

Eric Lessens in the MCA pop-up experience by FCB

This weekend, the Museum of Contemporary Art brings the year 1979 to life in a free, two-day Wicker Park pop-up experience dedicated to the work of artist Howardena Pindell.

Boasting a t-shirt stand, a Space Invaders game, a wall of album covers, and a loaded record store rack next to a turntable with a pair of vintage headphones, the space is an authentic blast from the past.

Titled, “1979: The Year That Changed Everything,” the pop-up experience is just one component of the Made You Look integrated advertising campaign — the MCA’s first in 20 years — created by FCB Chicago.

Made You Look is designed to disrupt and provide high-energy, high-impact experiences for people to connect with what we’re doing at the MCA,” explains Lauren Smallwood, the museum’s Director of Communications. “We bring a pop-up experience outside of the MCA’s four walls to introduce people to this artist.”

Lauren Smallwood
Lauren Smallwood

The artist, Howardena Pindell, shifted her style to an autobiographical focus after a 1979 car accident caused her to suffer severe memory loss. The pop-up’s mini exhibitions reference different aspects of the world that influenced her art, which she continues to make today.

“Pop culture, sports, and space are all coming to life in these sort of different stations, connecting people to nostalgia and fun things from the 70s, but also to her work,” adds Smallwood, “which is not something that every artist would allow us to do.”

Other components of the campaign include several six-second videos that tell a different story about something that’s happening at the MCA.



FCB created Made You Look to help the MCA publicize a number of recent additions to “the galleries and the stage and all the things we’re more known for,” says Smallwood.

“The MCA is changing,” she continues. “We have added a destination restaurant. We have our new common space, which is sort of a hangout programming space. We have The Street, which is a new place you can come and get coffee and hang out … We needed an umbrella idea that would allow us to tell all those stories and connect them to people and kind of re-introduce the MCA to audiences.”

Smallwood realized that FCB was the right agency for the job almost from the get-go.

“Sometimes there’s just like a chemistry vibe,” she says, “and I knew in the first meeting (that) they were the right team.”

When FCB made its final pitch, her hunch became a reality. “This was the last idea that they shared and I knew — in my gut, in that moment — that this was the idea,” she recalls. “They nailed it.”

(Some of) the pop-up team: Eric Lessens, Liz Taylor, Nok Sangdee, Kevin Grady, Lauren Smallwood, Brooke Ward, John Potter, Jeannine Aniol
(Some of) the pop-up team: Eric Lessens, Liz Taylor, Nok Sangdee, Kevin Grady, Lauren Smallwood, Brooke Ward, John Potter, Jeannine Aniol

The tagline and the campaign itself, “Made You Look,” amplify the museum’s ability to startle its visitors.

“In the galleries at the institution right now, you always see people looking, obviously, but like doing a double take,” Smallwood explains. “It’s contemporary art. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Kevin Grady
Kevin Grady

According to FCB Chicago’s Head of Design Kevin Grady, the pop-up in Wicker Park and the artist to whom it is dedicated make a natural pairing.

“We’ve been looking at ways to get people to stop, catch their attention, and make them think differently about something,” he explains. “With Howardena Pindell, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take an artist and put a pivotal moment of her life in a different context.”

FCB and the MCA hosted a sneak peek at the installation for members of the press earlier today. Among those in attendance were Smallwoood and several members of the team that worked on the campaign, including Chicago Chief Creative Officer Liz Taylor, who was visibly pleased with the place.

Liz Taylor
Liz Taylor

“We love to think of ourselves as Chicago’s agency,” she said. “We do work for the Chicago Public Library. We helped with the Amazon pitch. So to have the representation of the contemporary art scene in our own city, it’s fantastic.”

Besides gaining a little education and enjoying a lot of nostalgia, visitors to the pop-up can also reap a financial bonus for making the trip.

“Anybody who shows proof that they came — like with one of the cards or the buttons or the t-shirts — gets to pay the 1979 entry price when they come to the MCA,” says Smallwood. “I think it was a dollar fifty.”

Located at 1330 N. Milwaukee Ave., the MCA pop-up is open to the public on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, click here.

Client: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA)
   Lauren Smallwood: Director of Communications
   Abraham Ritchie: Social Media Manager
   Melissa Roels: Coordinator of Marketing

Agency: FCB Chicago
   Chief Creative Officer: Liz Taylor
   EVP, Head of Design: Kevin Grady
   EVP, Executive Creative Director: Ecole Weinstein
   Creative Director: Nok Sangdee
   Associate Creative Director: John Potter
   Management Director of Integrated Production Services: Kerry Hill
   Executive Producer: Audrey Wojtonik
   Producer: Jeannie Slezak
   Associate Traffic Manager: Kate Vilt
   Director of Music: Stump Mahoney
   VP, Director of Strategic Planning: Katie Lowman
   VP, Group Management Director: Brooke Ward
   Account Supervisor: Eric Lessens

Production: Lord + Thomas
   Editor: Dave Cullen
   Senior Motion Designer: Brian Steckel
   Senior Producer: Clare Deady

To contact Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, email dan@reelchicago.com.