New gallery app helps art fans play virtual tourist

yellow banana peel on grey background
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 4:47pm
Blake Eligh

Ever wanted to know more about that banana on the ceiling in the CCT building? Well, now there’s an app for that.

The Blackwood Gallery has launched an iPad app, Art Walk, that takes viewers on a virtual tour of art on display around the UTM campus.

Art Walk is part of a revitalization of the gallery, which recently ended a 13-year moratorium on collecting with the addition of 10 new pieces to its permanent collection, including the aforementioned banana, Roula Partheniou's Caution Yellow.

Blackwood’s permanent collection includes about 450 pieces, including works by notable artists such as Mary Pratt, Michael Snow, Rebecca Belmore and Carl Beam. “Over 200 of those pieces are installed in offices, theatres, lobbies, hallways and classrooms at UTM,” says Blackwood’s director and curator Christine Shaw. “We wanted the public to know they are out there.”

The multimedia Art Walk app—available for free from the iTunes store—includes an animated three-dimensional tour of the campus, along with sounds of the campus life and images of 46 pieces of art on display around UTM. With just a swipe of a finger, art fans can enter a building and see high-resolution images of the art within. The experience is further enhanced with descriptions of the art and artist biographies.

To add cultural context, Blackwood commissioned companion essays by Canadian artists, writers and art historians Jean-Paul Kelly, Sarah Stanners, Charlene Lau and Sky Goodden. Shaw plans to add more art and cultural information as the collection grows.

While gallery pieces are currently available on the FADIS database and the new Blackwood Gallery website, the Art Walk app makes the virtual gallery experience dynamic and accessible to anyone, anywhere. 

Shaw hopes users will use the app to enhance their experience with the collection. Visitors to the Blackwood Gallery in the Kaneff Centre can sign out one of two iPads pre-loaded with the app and take a walking tour to see the works in-person. “We want people to understand the relationship between the gallery and the campus,” says Shaw. “You can stand in front of the piece and have contextualized information.”

virtual map of UTM campus

The app is already garnering attention from further afield. “We’re getting a lot of attention from other galleries,” Shaw says, adding that she’s recently had “three new requests to loan pieces from our collection.”

Shaw also hopes the app will find its way into the academic curriculum. “I’m interested in the potential to deepen the engagement between gallery and classroom,” she says.

Commissioned by Blackwood’s previous curator Christof Migone and collection archivist Julia Abraham, Art Walk was developed by Canadian artist Faisal Anwar of DigitalDip and funded by the Government of Ontario.

Ready to take the tour? Download the Blackwood Gallery Art Walk app here.