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You Are Here Toledo to drop digital dots


By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


May 15, 2012: Toledo-area Latino families have a unique way to spend time together and learn more about the Glass City this summer with the “You Are Here Toledo” project.


100 large outdoor “dots” are being placed throughout the community at historically significant locations, each one designed by a local artist. Nearly 100 local artists of all types—designers, painters, illustrators, and photographers—have collaborated on the project, which is a joint venture between the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (ACGT) and the American Institute of Graphic Arts Toledo (AIGA).


Each dot is three feet in diameter, uniquely designed and relates in some way to its location. The dots are affixed to the sidewalk and have scannable information about that particular location that someone can find by using their smartphone.


Dan Hernández, art in public places coordinator for the arts commission, stated the QR (quick response) scanner information gives a “digital dimension” to the two-dimensional artwork in each dot. The information also tells the person about the artist and why he created the dot.


“We think the project is exciting and engaging the community in a number of different ways,” he said of the temporary public art project. “But it will live on both on-line and through people’s memories of it.”


Hernández admitted the dot project gives a feel-good aspect to art similar to the “It’s Reigning Frogs” public art project about a decade ago, where community groups sponsored and designed frogs that appeared temporarily in public places across Toledo. Those frogs later were auctioned off for charity—and many found permanent homes throughout the community at local businesses and other locations.


“With the permanent public art collection we have out there now, it’s permanently sited and they tend to forget about it,” he said. “They see it every day. They see it so much they forget about it.”


Hernández admitted the “You Are Here Toledo” public art campaign could serve as a “stay-cation” (stay-at-home vacation) for many families facing high gas prices or other economic challenges. The dots can serve as a day-long or seasonal adventure as people are afforded the opportunity to learn things about Toledo they may have never known or had long forgotten.


“With the permanent public art collection we have out there now, it’s permanently sited and they tend to forget about it,” he said. “They see it every day. They see it so much they forget about it.”


Many of the dots relate to historically-significant locations in the city. One will be located outside the Pythian Castle downtown, an empty building that has unique architecture, but also has a large art mural decorating one of its downtown walls.

Others are just in “cool” locations, Hernández said. For example, a dot will be placed at Promenade Park along the Maumee River where many people walk. Another one will be located outside San Marcos supermarket/restaurant located next to the High Level Bridge, a location known for its authentic Mexican cuisine. But that location happens to be near a mural created by Latino artists along an I-75 overpass and near some art galleries along the Broadway corridor.


“It’s an opportunity to highlight that location, as well as when you’re standing near San Marcos, you can see a lot of viewpoints—downtown, the High-Level Bridge,” he said. “You’re standing on the cusp of the Old South End and can see a lot of landmarks, so we thought that would be a good location for a dot.”


The arts commission and AIGA-Toledo will host a launch part on Tuesday, May 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the Valentine Theater, 410 Adams St. in downtown Toledo. People who attend can learn more about the public art project and see smaller-scale versions of all 100 dots in one place.


The project will kick off Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start to the summer festival season. As an incentive, the first 100 people to find and “collect” 25 dots will receive a poster that includes the designs of all one-hundred dots scattered throughout town. The posters are hand silk-screened versions. Hernández called them “an artwork in themselves.”


The public art display also opens in conjunction with the Glass Art Society conference at the Toledo Museum of Art in mid-June. Hernández stated there will be “a big influx of art lovers into the city” for the conference and the “project will allow them to get out and explore and learn more about our city.”


“One of the elements of it is somewhat of a treasure hunt or an urban exploration,” he explained. “Each dot is unique in that it has its own graphic, created by the artist, specifically for the site where it sits. The one in front of the arts commission is specifically for there and the one in front of Wixey Bakery is strictly for the bakery itself. It has unique characteristics that relate to that particular location.”


Organizers have also created a smartphone app, which provides an interactive map of where all the dots are located, as well as allow the user to “check in” at each dot. The Android phone app also provides information on each dot, its location, and the history of the location. He called it a “tech-savvy” way to enjoy the public art display.


“As far as we know, this is the first time anyone’s done an art project like this,” Hernández said. “Other communities have put decals on sidewalks, but nothing like this, where the decals are each individually designed for a specific location with the purpose of getting people out to explore these different locations.”


AIGA-Toledo leaders will present the project at a national conference in July. The “You Are Here Toledo” effort is just one of eight innovative projects to be presented at that conference.


“It’s a huge honor and I think it’s a project a lot of people are going to be excited about,” said Hernandez. “We’re hoping to get some notoriety in the public art realm as well.”


He also called the project a reflection of the growing arts community in Toledo, as well as the collaboration that has resulted from the renewed emphasis on art as a community-wide draw.


“The city is really being transformed with art,” he said.

But the timing of the project may serve as a welcome boost of civic pride for a community coming out of tough economic times.


“This is definitely a feel-good and we hope it will get people out into the community exploring and realizing that we live in a great city,” Hernandez said. “Even when times are hard, there is still a lot to do and a lot of opportunity here.”


On the Internet: www.youareheretoledo.com


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/15/12 13:26:57 -0700.





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