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Rock Creek gets an online art walk to remember
Photos and Story by James Hill
The art installations at the Rock Creek Campus just got smarter.
Thanks to the efforts of Jim Johnstone of the Rock Creek Library, student Cheryl Cardarelli and many others, visitors to the campus can tour its artwork either in-person or through their smart phones, iPads, tablets or simply look over the pieces from the comfort of their own home on their PC. All last year as part of a Rock Creek art project, the duo cataloged the campus’ procured artwork and had them uploaded to an interactive campus map on the PCC website.
“It is all truly interconnected,” said Johnstone. “If you were at home discussing with somebody about a piece of art, 24/7, they can go and find it and learn about it. It’s really sweet.”
Thanks to GPS and Google mapping technologies, the interactive campus map shows exactly where every piece is located at Rock Creek. Viewers can even see which art is inside or outdoors or on what floor in a particular building. By clicking individual pins on the map, the art’s info is brought up with a link to the piece’s webpage.
The artwork on the tour is diverse and plentiful, from paintings to metal sculptures to ceramic pieces to wood prints, the campus has it all. And artists range from students to professionals in the community whose works are worth anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. Johnstone said the tour will grow as campus art instructor and Rock Creek Art Collection Advisory Council Co-Chair Mark Andres continues to solicit pieces to add to the collection. This includes any work purchased through the Bond Program (the state requires 1 percent of bond funds to go to purchasing art).
“There is a hidden treasure, in plain sight, here at the Rock Creek Campus,” said Cardarelli, who is an art student. “It is the art collection hanging and standing among us quietly. The voice of the Rock Creek Art Collection was broadened when it was added to the website map.”
Johnstone said the idea grew from the Rock Creek Campus needing an orderly way to organize its art tours and make it more accessible. Starting in the fall of 2011, the duo had to create a comprehensive and sortable online database with inventory numbers, photos of the art, date of acquisition, artist info, measurements and descriptions of all 160 pieces. The college’s TSS department used that information to create a layered campus map with pins from Google Maps. This effort, which took most of the academic year, helped clean up Rock Creek and the district’s art inventory lists.
“When Jim approached us about the Rock Creek art project, I was excited to explore the options,” said Gabriel Nagmay, web designer for TSS. “The college has thousands of pieces – many of them by famous artists – which all deserve to be highlighted. We needed to create a process and choose a platform that would not only work for Jim, but also others as the college continues to add pieces to the collection.”
The Keyhole Markup Language (KML) was the format of choice, Nagmay said. Developed by Google, he said the format is flexible, allowing the college to keep all the art data in one place. It also allowed PCC to add the art maps as a layer to the main campus maps for more exposure.
To make this system work for the art map, Johnstone said he and Cardarelli took digital photos and numbered them with the art’s inventory number. Each piece then got its own Quick Response Code engraved on the information plaque next to the art. Hence, a tourist can now use their smartphone camera to take them directly to that artwork’s webpage and learn more about that specific piece.
“It worked really, really well, because when we sent the stuff to Gabe, he brought everything together on that one number,” Johnstone added. “It turned into a very huge project. At every turn there was something we had to re-invent because we hadn’t done it before.”
Johnstone said he’ll solicit input on how to utilize the art walk for student learning, such as incorporating the tour into classes. He is also sharing all of their hard work with other campuses interested in documenting their art online as well. But first, a deep breath is in order.
“It’s kind of amazing that it’s done,” Johnstone said as he surveyed the map at his computer. “It was a long haul. It was wonderful and too much fun, but I’m glad we’re done.”
Watch Johnstone’s video about the new art walk.