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We have Wikipedia for facts. Why can’t we have Wikipedia for maps?
Turns out, we do—for the murals, galleries, statues, wheatpastes, museums, graffiti, and architectural landmarks that pervade the city of D.C. Yesterday’s RedesignDC forum marked the public launch of theartaround.us, a form of crowdsourced public art mapping that organizers hope will help people discover creative expression in a city better known for its ruthless functionalism (or disfunctionalism, depending on how you look at it).
“If we’re thinking about art as information, than where we’re located is very important,” explains Sunlight Foundation organizer Laurenellen McCann, who put together the project with the help of a $9,800 grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The concept was inspired by another endeavor, Wikipedia Saves Public Art—McCann just added geography.
The content itself hasn’t quite filled out yet; many entries are missing information. But it’s still very young. McCann hasn’t promoted the site much, and has been making most of the entries herself (she was awarded a grant in part to create a place for the District to map its own public art projects). If it gets rolling, it could become a fairly comprehensive inventory of all art forms on the District’s streets, from chalk sidewalk portraits to the tiny second floor galleries you never noticed to the Hirshhorn Museum. Within the next couple weeks, it’ll get even easier to contribute, when McCann releases her iPhone and Android apps.
Geographic crowdsourcing seems like a really underutilized concept generally. D.C. also maintains a map for free public wifi, but citizens can’t add to it. The closest thing I can think of is this pothole mapping application, which is useful as far as getting roads fixed, but not really in helping people avoid potholes, or helping people learn more about their urban environment. McCann’s idea might just send me on a public art scavenger hunt one of these days, looking for all the bits of beauty I just never stop to notice.