Central Kentucky has more public art than most people realize, from edgy new murals and sculpture to historical architecture that has become so much a part of the landscape that we take it for granted.
Finding and learning more about this art has never been easier, thanks to a new, free tool that is as close as the palm of your hand.
The Kentucky Museum Without Walls project will soon release an Android version of its TakeItArtside! application, which was launched in November for Apple's iPhone, iPad and iTouch.
The app is the brainchild of faculty and students at the University of Kentucky's Art Department and Gaines Center for the Humanities and was developed by Lexington's APAX Software. You may download it free from Apple's App Store or the project's Web site, Kentuckymuseumwithoutwalls.com.
The application uses GPS mapping technology to direct users to art in public places in Fayette and surrounding counties. There is a photograph of and information about each piece. Users may search for public art in the region and make a gallery of favorites.
But that is just the beginning, said Christine Huskisson, the project's co-founder and a part-time UK art professor. "It has the ability to engage people in public art who haven't been engaged before," she said.
Users may send feedback and information to project developers, such as whether a piece of art has been vandalized. Soon, they will be able to add additional artwork to the database, along with photographs and background information.
"We're using the community to help us build the content," Huskisson said, adding that submitted information will be edited and verified by project volunteers.
Interdisciplinary lesson plans for middle school and high school students are available on the app and the Web site, and discussions are under way about using them in local school systems. The app also has a calendar of events.
The app will soon launch an interactive game — ArtFit — that will help users count calories they burn while walking to visit artwork. Streaming video interviews with local artists will be added soon.
Eventually, Huskisson said, the project hopes to grow into its name and expand statewide, perhaps with help from UK's network of county extension agents.
Georgetown College, where art department chair Juilee Decker has been active in public art projects, has joined as a partner in the Kentucky Museum Without Walls. Discussions are under way to bring in Transylvania University, too.
"It kind of has this life of its own," Huskisson said. The collaborative nature of the project has allowed it to come a long way in less than a year. It recently won a regional award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education.
The project began when Marnie Holoubek asked Huskisson and her museum-studies students to help develop a public-art master plan for the Legacy Trail. As that project progressed, ambitions grew.
Huskisson discovered that Lisa Broome-Price, associate director of the Gaines Center, wanted to create a public-art database for the region. After receiving a $10,000 Commonwealth Collaborative grant from UK to develop their vision, they attended a professional conference in Baltimore and were inspired by mobile apps in New York and Portland, Ore., and an online public-art database in Philadelphia.
They and their students visualized the user experience — including games and lesson plans — and APAX Software figured out how to turn it into reality. Subsequent funding has come from the Gaines Center and private donations.
UK and Georgetown College students have collected information about artwork for the database — taking photos, writing descriptions and plotting GPS locations. The process has led to some interesting discussions about what is public art.
Huskisson said TakeItArtside! is including any painting, sculpture, mural or other work that is outside or in a building accessible to the general public. But project leaders are taking a broad view. Many historical homes were added to the database because they are architectural works of art, Broome-Price said.
By increasing awareness of public art, the project hopes to develop more appreciation for the art Kentucky has — and an appetite to create more.
"It's about cultural assets in public places," Huskisson said. "And we have a lot more of them than many people realize."