Build Your Neighborhood: The ArtAround App

Co-written by Anna Joranger and Ilona Polinovsky

Ever walked by a mural painted on the side of an El station, a sculpture gracing a street corner in your community, an art garden tucked between buildings, and wished it featured an explanatory note like a museum? A new mobile app allows you to track down public art in your city and neighborhood, learn about the inspiration behind the art, and upload new pieces that aren’t featured yet.

Street and public art has become incredibly prevalent. This new popular visual form of art is usually created in public locations, outside of conventional art venues. Even though originally it referred only to graffiti which was considered unsanctioned artwork, today street art includes many other types of art such as poster art, murals, sculptures, etc.

Some pieces of street art are so breathtaking that people from different parts of town and sometimes other states stop by for a look. It is much easier to find the exact location with the new app ArtAround (our thanks to Art Beat on PBS NewsHour for the great piece!). Street art fans can take a picture of the artwork, post it online, indicate its location and track the artist. Users exchange all latest locations of public art and create a map which helps others to sightsee outstanding pieces of work. The concept of such an online application is not new but it is not yet developed in many cities. The community participates as a team and encourages residents to explore their local surroundings, enjoy the art, and build the value of street art. Chicago doesn’t have an active presence yet – so let’s build one!

Many artists that choose the street as their art gallery present ongoing social issues in their artwork, which carries ethical value and concerns about the community. That’s why public and street art is becoming such a crucial forum for community conversation – and ultimately, community improvement. Participate! Download the app, upload the street art in your community!

As an arts education organization, Urban Gateways is all about a) exposing students to more art, more often, b) engaging students in the lives of their communities, and c) teaching them responsible social media use and how to use social media, smart phones, and apps for art encounters that inspire them. Art teachers – offer extra credit for installing, exploring, and contributing to this free app!

Meanwhile, leave a comment: What is your favorite piece of public or street art in Chicago?