You Are Here Project to foster greater sense of communityWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Submissions opened Jan. 2 for the You Are Here Toledo Project, a public arts effort meant to foster a sense of community.
You Are Here (YAH), which officially launches in June and ends in October, will place 100 3-foot wide dots on the sidewalks of the area’s hot spots. The project is inspired by “you are here” dots found in many directories. The American Institute of Graphic Arts Toledo (AIGA) created the concept after being approached by the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo (ACGT) about six months ago.
“We are very big fans of promoting our community, the designers in the community and the community itself. We want people to feel really good about living here,” said Jenn Stucker, president of AIGA Toledo and YAH coordinator.
AIGA and ACGT have worked together on large-scale public art projects in the past, including the Urban Forest Project, a spring 2010 series of outdoor banners relating to trees.
“One of the things that excites us about what [AIGA] is able to do is through the project that they’ve come up with, they’re able to engage a group of local artists that may not have always been engaged in public art,” said Dan Hernandez, coordinator of art in public places for ACGT.
“When you think of public art, you think of large-scale, sculptural elements. What AIGA’s been able to do is help us rethink that and engage local, two-dimensional artists.”
Artists have until Jan. 31 to submit three examples of their best work, which must be JPEG or PDF files no bigger than 10 MB, to www.youareheretoledo.com. AIGA will judge the submissions and by Feb. 7 it will alert the chosen artists, who must have their dot design completed by March 16. The dot design should relate back to the artist’s assigned location. Installation of the dots begins around the end of May and a June event is being planned to officially launch YAH.
On the first day of open submissions, Stucker received entries from 10 artists, including printmakers, graphic artists, comics artists and photographers. “They’re people who I haven’t seen participate in projects like this so I’m pretty excited about that,” she said.
YAH began when the Art in Public Places Committee of ACGT decided it wanted to launch a public art project in time for the Glass Art Society 42nd Annual Conference, taking place June 13-16 in Toledo. The conference should bring about 1,200-1,500 visitors to the city.
After being approached by ACGT, AIGA brainstormed ideas for a public arts project and came up with the YAH dots, which are meant to encourage visitors and citizens alike to explore Toledo, Stucker said.
A QR code, which can be scanned with a smartphone, and a URL will be on each dot, providing viewers with information on the location and the artist. An online map of the dots will be created as well, and the first 100 people who scan 25 dots will receive a poster.
“Sometimes people need that additional context to understand what they’re looking at. It’s kinda a unique way to interact with the artwork,” Hernandez said of the technological addition to the project.
CGS Imaging will produce the dots, which will stick to the sidewalks with adhesive and can be walked over, said Chuck Stranc, president of CGS. CGS will use an eco-friendly, water-based latex Hewlett Packard ink on the dots.
“It actually is more durable than the old technology, but it’s not hazardous to the environment,” Stranc said.
AIGA worked with the city to get permission to place the dots on sidewalks and is in the process of alerting the selected participants, Stucker said. Many of the likely locations will have something to do with glass, like the Rosary Cathedral, known for its stained glass windows, Libbey Glass Factory and the Glass Pavilion of the Toledo Museum of Art. Other locations include the Lagrange Polish Village and Owens Corning.
YAH is funded with $26,000 from the One Percent for Art program, a 1977 ordinance that puts aside 1 percent of the city’s capital improvement budget for public art.
The amount is low for a public art project and YAH may even go under budget, Hernandez said. “But, we’ll have a nice, robust impact on the community.
“Overall, public art has the ability to impact the way that the city looks and feels; it gives a sense of humanity to the city. If you’re in a city that has no art or design mixed in with the function, it can be a very bland place,” he said.
Public art projects like YAH are important to the community because they provide an outlet for conversation, Stucker said.
“It creates dialogue; it can be all kinds of dialogue: what is this thing about, I love this, I hate this thing and why do I hate this thing.”