For the last three years, Vignettes has been synonymous with one-night showcases, but that trajectory has changed for the event’s fourth iteration.
Pioneered by Edmonton’s Mojo Design Inc., Vignettes -a grassroots campaign that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration within the design communities in Edmonton – was strictly design-based, providing its participants the opportunity to create visual art spaces within an eight-by-eight-foot square. Each year, the scope changed slightly – the first year showcased furniture designed by U of A students, the second, local woodworkers, and in the third year, woodworkers, artists and designers collaborated together – but stayed within the limits of design.
“This is our fourth one, but we kind of look at it as year one now that we’ve done something on this scale,” says Leigh Wright, artist, designer, and marketing manager at Mojo Design Inc.
For Vignettes 4, the MoJo Design team, working in partnership with Edmonton Economic Development, ventured into offering events over two weekends (instead of a one-night affair) and added a culinary component to the event, something MoJo hadn’t done before.
“To extend the festival [over two weekends] gave us more time to accomplish the new things like the dining experience that we’ve never done before. To pile it all one weekend would have made me pull out my hair even more,” says Wright. “It just gave us the opportunity to accomplish all the new additions and allow more people to go see it.”
On the opening night alone, 1,700 people were in attendance.
“We sent out a survey after [to attendees and participants] to follow-up… And they were so pumped that Edmonton had something like this or that they felt Edmonton needed something like this,” says Wright. “100 percent of the people said they’d go back to the restaurant that they dined at and rated it a “high-end” experience.”
Unfortunately, the ticket sales for the dining component did not fare as well as they had hoped. Organizers had planned to sell 160 seats to host four restaurants – Black Pearl, Tzin, Blue Plate Diner and Rostizado – for a two-hour dining experience, but instead only 80 tickets were sold.
Wright notes there was a lack of communication, which resulted in people not knowing what they were getting with the dining ticket.
” [They] didn’t realize [they] were getting all-inclusive alcohol, wine pairings, aperitifs, gourmet meals, caviar, and four appetizers, things like that,” says Wright. “They didn’t know what they were actually going to get in terms of the value of what was included in their ticket, and that also included live music playing, serenading them while they ate, and having live artists paint in front of them. Not knowing what to expect in a new event, now we have all of that, so we can communicate that to our audiences a lot better.”
Since tickets for the dining component were lower than expected, organizers had to consolidate the restaurants and move the locations, resulting in Rostizado dropping out.
“It didn’t work with what Rostizado was trying to do in terms of having it right next door and closer to their venue,” Wright says. “There was just too many changes in the end to make it work for them.”
Organizers were faced with some other challenges: The City of Edmonton didn’t give them a permit in time to host the rooftop dinner and the windy temperature resulted in the Michael Phair Park dinner moving indoors.
Despite those challenges, Wright plans to take all of that, as well as the feedback provided by attendees, to make next year a lot smoother. They’re also looking into running Vignettes longer than just a weekend, possibly a month-long, and allowing restaurants to take up residency for a week in a pop-up spot.
“This year was super exclusive. You were one of the 20 people who got to go to this cool experience,” Wright adds. “We’re hoping to open the doors and allow hundreds of people to get that really cool experience and that allows the chefs to dial in a little bit more, knowing that they’ll get more permanent residency at that space as opposed to them being in and out.”