SAN FRANCISCO – Magazines and newspapers were once the primary platform for artists seeking to reach the public, and they’re still important. But the last decade has seen a blizzard of new media outlets like websites and blogs, social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and a plethora of mobile apps. For individual artists, managing all these media streams can seem like an extra full-time job.
But the flowering new media landscape also presents unique opportunities to artists who take a creative approach.
A case in point is the “social practice/endurance hiking project” On the Road: The Scenic 49, mounted in March 2016 by the Mobile Arts Platform (MAP), an “artmaking and curatorial team” in the Bay Area founded by artists Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari. Like many of MAP’s other projects, it creatively embedded social media and photo-documentation at the very heart of its creative impulse.
The undertaking was designed to capture public perceptions of the rapid changes in San Francisco, a tech hotspot that is rapidly gentrifying. The project, like most of MAP’s, included many elements. Foucault and Treggiari hiked San Francisco’s 49-mile Scenic Drive over a three-day period, with art-making stops along the way during which the public was invited to participate. Neighborhood residents were also encouraged to write short accounts of how San Francisco’s upscale demographic changes were affecting them. A gallery event at the end of the third day featured artifacts created during the journey, as well as mobile art-making tools that Foucault and Treggiari built for the project.
This was a very physical project, but it was sparked by a digital idea: creating a virtual interactive map. Working with local web designer Nico Crisafulli, the artists built a digital archive of the project, focused on a map with pins at each art-making location along the route. The artists took photos of participants and uploaded them in real time, and comments and images were also crowd-sourced from people at each stop along the trail. “We’ve documented our projects in a lot of ways, but this was the first interactive approach,” says Foucault.
In the tech-heavy Bay Area region, the public took to the concept. “We were surprised at how many people took a lot of time and were really invested in it,” he says. “Photographs tend to be static, and they become a lot more dynamic when you crowdsource and give people the opportunity to upload their own.”