Newsmakers: You Are Here project fosters community knowledgeWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
From May to November, a series of colorful “dots” popped up on Glass City sidewalks, marking points of interest around the city and giving residents and visitors alike a chance to learn more about Toledo.
The You Are Here Toledo Project consisted of 100 3-foot-wide dots designed by local artists. Scanning the QR code on the dot with a smartphone provided information about the location as well as the artist.
The project was inspired by the “You Are Here” locators found on many maps and directories, said project coordinator Jenn Stucker, president of American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Toledo, which created the concept after being approached by the Arts Commission.
“I’ve always been fascinated with You Are Here dots,” Stucker said. “When you don’t know where you are, it provides a sense of place and plays into your sense of security.”
One South Toledo couple, whose testimonial is featured on You Are Here Toledo’s website, said the dots helped them discover new places in their own city.
“We found 29 dots and saw places in Toledo we didn’t know existed. By the time we showed up at San Marcos Taqueria and Grocery, we were hungry and sat down for some incredible tacos. We would have never eaten there if it wasn’t for the dots,” the couple wrote. “[We] had a polite gentleman take us for tourists, suggesting more things to see downtown … which we did. … This was really fun! We were going to leave town this weekend and instead vacationed and spent our money locally in Toledo.”
Stucker said she is “over the moon” hearing stories like that.
“That couldn’t have been a more perfect response,” Stucker said. “People over and over have said, ‘Oh I didn’t know about that.’ So it’s good for people who live here as well as people who know nothing about Toledo.”
Artist Dustin Hostetler, who designed the dot near his Downtown restaurant Grumpy’s, said he was glad to be a part of the project.
“I thought the project went amazingly well,” Hostetler said in an email to Toledo Free Press. “I saw a lot of people visiting the dot in front of Grumpy’s that were trying their hardest to visit all of the dots. It felt great knowing people were willing to explore the city for art’s sake.”
Artist Ben Morales, who designed the Owens Corning dot, said the project was engaging on many levels.
“One could appreciate it purely for aesthetic reasons, as it offered an artistic touch to the local landscape. But there was also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the project using the custom app,” Morales said in an email. “Toledo is rich in history and learning about its roots in such a way really helps give it a sense of place. When you stop looking at a city or place as just a backdrop to your life, you begin to see the unique character and culture embedded in every building and structure.”
The first 100 people to scan 25 dots received a poster.
“The minute it was launched we had an amazing response,” Stucker said. “We were out of the posters within 27 days.”
Although the app didn’t track how many people visited all 100 dots, Kaylene Miller of Toledo’s Old West End posted a video of her journey on YouTube. It took Miller two days to visit the dots. To watch the video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZfCgv7qcBQ.
“I just got this notion to do all 100 because I didn’t think anyone else was doing it and a lot of them were near me,” Miller said. “I kind of figured out a plan and went to the ones along the one part of town where I knew,. There were a few that were difficult to find and some that were missing.”
Stolen or vandalized dots were quickly replaced when reported, Stucker said.
Miller made the trip alone, but along the way ran into other people checking out the dots.
“A couple of them stopped to say, ‘How many do you have so far?’” Miller said. “It was a pretty cool idea. I wish a lot of other people could have gotten interested in it and learned more about Toledo as a whole or about places they’ve been to but never knew what that place was.”
Stucker said many people keep asking if there will be a second round of dots.
“We’ve had an amazing response from businesses. I’ve had several businesses contact me about how to get involved in this project,” Stucker said. “We’re in the process of proposing to the Arts Commission a second version with a little different twist to it. We’re making that proposal in January, so keep your eyes peeled.”
For more information or to view the dots online, visit youareheretoledo.com.