ArtAround is a project dedicated to mapping and sharing the art we find around us. ArtAround allows us to explore cities through their art, and they’ve just recently expanded their art-mapping app and community to Oakland. We chatted with some of the creatives behind ArtAround about the role of art in urban life, Oakland street art, and their perfect day in Oakland.
Read more or RSVP for their mapping event this weekend (Sept. 7) at 1pm at Betti Ono.
Tell us a little about what ArtAround is.
ArtAround is an app, a community, and a nonprofit dedicated to helping build technology and community in an effort to help people find and share what they know about the art around them. It’s about people connecting through art – to place, history, artists, culture, and each other. We have an iphone app, and our website works so that anyone with an internet connection can map art by going to our website.
Why did you start ArtAround and what’s the story behind it?
ArtAround got its start in D.C. in 2010 with support from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Our team has been working to bring it to the Bay Area for about a year, with support from Converse and an amazing organization called the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.
The idea behind it is that there’s just so much amazing art in cities right now — street art, temporary art, public art, and art events (especially in Oakland). But unless you set aside time to go on a tour or to a museum, you can’t just bump into a piece of art and easily get to know it — who the artist is, the historical context, etc.
We have the technology to solve this and help us find, map, and share what we know about art. We should be able to engage with a piece of art in the moment when we’re most interested in it: when it’s right in front of us. That’s what ArtAround is about — leveraging technology and building community so that we can all engage more deeply with the art we see.
What’s your favorite piece in Oakland right now?
A friend just showed me this awesome mural that was a collaboration of many Oakland artists past and present and takes over nearly half of the exterior of a building at the corner of 42nd and Telegraph. It’s awesome, but unless you’re paying attention, it’s easy to miss.
Describe your perfect day in Oakland.
Well, I’m going to do this backwards. I’m a sucker for an evening stroll along Lake Merritt. Before that I’d probably have gone to a new movie at the Grand Lake Theater or an old one at the Paramount. Dinner at MUA. Drinks at Make Westing. An A’s baseball game. Brunch at Flora.
What’s the role of public art in urban life?
Art has a more elusive role than other civic institutions such as libraries and post offices, but it’s just as significant in defining us as citizens of an urban community. Without art, cities would be much colder places. Seeing art around a city jolts us out of our daily routines and reminds us of the things that connect us. When you engage with a work, you engage with the artist who has preserved this act of expression, with the context and meaning of the piece, and with all of the other people who have also engaged with it.
What are some trends you’ve noticed in public art over the last few years?
A lot of public art seems to be moving towards temporary exhibition. Because there’s less money to create large-scale permanent art these days, it’s a good compromise to show things in the short term.
Street art has always followed a more temporary timescale — unsanctioned graffiti artists often operate under the assumption that their work will be painted over or scrubbed away, and there’s a longstanding practice of creating murals on construction walls.
Now city-commissioned pieces like Oakland’s Uptown Art Park are adopting the same model. It’s a very creative solution to a big problem and supports the belief that it’s important to maintain art even when fewer people are willing to support projects outside of what is considered a basic need.
What do you love about Oakland that you can’t find anywhere else?
Art Murmur! No other city in the Bay Area has it. It’s an event that has really made art relevant and accessible to a diverse crowd of people. And it’s a testament to the community of artists and art supporters in Oakland that it’s become such a huge event.
Who else is doing good work in Oakland these days? Anyone who deserves a shout-out?
Betti Ono Gallery has been doing amazing things in just one year. I’m very impressed by Anyka Barber and her team and how they have managed to be a gallery that shows quality work, and at the same time be a hub that celebrates Oakland as a place and a community.
Anything else that you think people should know about what you guys do?
Photos courtesy of Pamela Palma, interview with Anna Bloom of ArtAround.
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