City of Emeryville, CA

Going Virtual to Celebrate the Arts


With a large number of residents who are artists, the City of Emeryville thrives on its motto of ‘Art and Innovation.’ To highlight the work of local artists, the Celebration of the Arts committee hosts the annual Emery Arts Festival – a 4-week long festival focused on the traditional visual arts of painting and sculpture and, more recently, incorporating other art forms such as poetry and dance. This 34-year old festival has created a legacy of bringing together artists and the larger Emeryville community to celebrate.

In the pre-COVID world, the committee – in collaboration with the City of Emeryville – would select a building that served as their gallery for the exhibition. The exhibition was inaugurated with an opening night party attended by the artists and the community. However, since the pandemic put a pause on normal life, the Emery Arts Festival faced the question of how (if at all) to host the 2020 version of Celebration of the Arts.

The USDR team was brought in to conceptualize what a digital exhibition could look like and then support the event by migrating an in-person experience to a digital experience. Emeryville wanted the digital event to continue its 34-year-old tradition and attract a minimum of 150 attendees, raise $2,000 in donations, and establish an ongoing social media footprint.

Our approach

The USDR team, collaborating with Emeryville Celebration of the Arts personnel, kicked off the project by co-creating an omnichannel strategy to run a virtual EmeryArts2020. The aim was to launch a sustainable platform to successfully run the event this year and in future years.

The USDR team assessed both the existing and proposed platforms. They created the strategy for a new website, with an online storefront, and recommended analytics for site optimization. Workflows were simplified. The existing website was migrated along with the backed integration of previous versions. The launch of Facebook and Instagram accounts enhanced Emery Arts’ social media presence. And digital communication improved with the set-up and integration of Eventbrite and Mailchimp.

“USDR is an incredible group of volunteers that help cities with problems they’re having during the pandemic. I’ve been floored with the expertise they brought to this team. They’ve done things that the city had no way of doing on its own and have done it at no cost. We’ve all learned as a result, and we’ve been able to have the event as a result, and it has built community during a very difficult time.”

Chadrick Smalley
Economic Development and Housing Manager
City of Emeryville


“Partnering with the City of Emeryville was fulfilling because it helped an at-risk art community stay connected through an event they look forward to every year. Working with the EmeryArts team was rewarding because they were open to doing whatever it took to make the event successful, even though they had to learn completely new skills.”

Prince Boucher, USDR Volunteer

Meet the team

Alex Allain
Alex overaw the development of technological tools, automation, and infrastructure at USDR. Previously, Alex served as a Director of Engineering at Dropbox.
Prince Boucher
Prince is a senior product and growth marketing leader with a startup background. Volunteering with USDR, he worked with several partners on their content strategy and outreach efforts.
Vaissnavi Shukl
A graduate of Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Vaissnavi is an architect, researcher, and podcast host.
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