Philadelphia has one of the largest collections of public art in America; but how do we take this existing resource and make it seem new again? The Association for Public Art (aPA, formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), the nation's first private, nonprofit organization dedicated to integrating public art and urban planning, has been making a concerted effort to find news ways to engage audiences in an online conversation with the city’s preeminent collection of artwork.
In the past year, we have increased our use of social media to help raise public art awareness. Audiences who
follow us on Twitter or Instagram, read tips from us on Foursquare, or like us on Facebook have the opportunity to ask questions and tell us what they would like to know about public art. The aPA’s extensive public art archive of historic photos and facts, as well as our award-winning Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program, provide a rich stockpile of content from which to draw.
Through social media, we are re-introducing artworks to the public as well as encouraging the viewer to participate in a dialogue that enhances
their experience of the city’s historical and cultural assets. Through this growth of online engagement we have been able to encourage participation on a new level with our most recent public art installation, Open Air.
Visit our “Open Air” pop-up living room at our Project Information Center at Eakins Oval (24th and the Parkway), open nightly from 7:30pm-11pm until October 14
On September 20, aPA launched Open Air by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer running nightly, now through October 14, from 8pm-11pm, on the Parkway. Open Air is a spectacular interactive light experience directed by participants’ voices and GPS locations, illuminating the night sky from the Parkway. Using a free mobile app developed by Lozano-Hemmer’s studio, participants are invited to submit messages of up to 30 seconds in length. In response, 24 powerful robotic searchlights, stationed along the Parkway, create a unique, dynamic light formation in the sky. The lights react in brightness and position to the GPS location of the participants and the frequency and amplitude of their voice recording.
#OpenAirPhilly trended according to @TrendsPhilly during our “Open Air” Opening Night Celebration on the Parkway
Because Open Air is activated through audience participation (the artist calls the project a “platform for participation”), utilizing
social media to promote the project seemed fitting. We included #OpenAirPhilly in printed and online materials and are engaging in conversation with people who use the hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. For the public Opening Night Celebration held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, we held a Tweet Up through Visible Tweets. Using a large screen, we displayed all tweets that included our hashtag. This not only highlighted the language we were encouraging the audience to use, but also rewarded them for using it by displaying their tweet for others to see. We are also running a photo contest through Offerpop. To enter the contest, the participant either loads the photo through a tab on our Facebook Page or uses #OpenAirPhilly on Instagram or Twitter; they are automatically entered into the contest. After the photos are entered, users must vote for the best ones. The three photos with the most votes will win a signed print of an Open Air simulation.
The result of these initiatives is a citywide conversation about Open Air. Not only do participants’ voices transform the night sky, but their online dialogue is enhancing their experience of public art in Philadelphia.
This blog post was written by Caitlin Martin. Caitlin Martin graduated with a degree in Architecture from Louisiana State University. She currently works as the New Media Manager for the Association for Public Art. In her free time, she is a long distance cyclist. Read her blog headwind2011.blogspot.com about her cross-country bike trip. She is currently writing a food guide for cyclists based on her journey.