OAKLAND -- The newest way to experience street art in Oakland is interactive. Stumble across a mind-blowing mural, take a photo of it with your phone and map it using ArtAround's mobile app.
If you're the first person to map it, you get to add the first comment and get the conversation going. If you're lucky, someone has already mapped the piece for you and community connections centered on the works are growing.
ArtAround is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to map public art and create social connections and conversation about sculpture, murals, architecture -- anything that can be considered art in cities.
"When we come to a city, we don't want to just take the data from the city," ArtAround's Executive Director Anna Bloom said. "We want people to join us in gathering photos and information and be part of the art in the city."
The organization runs an app with its name that's downloadable on an iPhone through the iTunes store or you can use the same features on its website, www.theartaround.org. Once you snap a photo with your mobile phone, you upload that photo to the app or website and fill in any known information about the work like title, artist and background facts. Through GPS technology, the location is automatically stored in the database at the spot you take the photo or you can add it later.
The ArtAround movement started in 2010 in Washington, D.C., when D.C. resident Laurenellen McCann worked with the D.C. Commission for the Arts and Humanities to bring the project off the ground. After a failed Kickstarter campaign, Converse moved in and provided money to get the D.C. mapping rolling. Volunteers mapped more than 100 works in San Francisco this summer, and a new piece is mapped nearly every day in that city.
Oakland's ArtAround kickoff Saturday at the Betti Ono Gallery on Broadway was part of the gallery's third anniversary celebration. About 40 people gathered at the gallery for snacks and refreshments before heading out on the town with folders full of locator maps and suggested art pieces from all of Oakland's neighborhoods. Phones in hand, volunteers were trigger-happy.
"There's so much going on in Oakland that I see happening, and I kind of want to be part of it," said Oakland resident Jenna Spangnolo, 23, at the gallery before heading off into the city to snap art. "It's nice to have stuff like this on the First Saturday where you can experience the arts more fully without the First Friday crowds hassling you."
Oakland's Julian Nadel, 40, just got home the weekend before from Burning Man. He said volunteering for ArtAround is "just as much of a segue of what I could do today. I love that event for the art, and I love the art in Oakland."
Nadel said he is interested in mapping altered spaces, places where people have created experiences with art rather than just a solo painting or sculpture. He planned on spending the day exploring, looking for the right places to shoot.
"I think we are at a great intersection of resourcefulness and edginess, and I think we should make the most of it here in Oakland," he said.
The volunteers mapped 90 pieces Saturday, everything from Dan Fontes' unmistakable giraffes under Highway 580 at Harrison Street in North Oakland to works on walls made by unknown mosaic artists.
Bloom said she was thrilled with the turnout.
"We had more people show up to the Oakland event than the San Francisco one," she said. A few hours after heading off to snap art, volunteers returned to the Betti Ono Galley to see a projected map on a screen that showed where the art had been plotted.
Bloom said ArtAround will likely push more efforts to fill out the Oakland and San Francisco maps before the organization moves into more cities. In the meantime, the group is working to make their app and website more user-friendly, faster and more fun.