Danny and Tom talk to us about their journey developing Leeds Art Map.
The idea for Leeds Art Map first came about through Danny’s undergraduate dissertation (he did Human Geography at Leeds Met) on the Leeds art scene. The project was started in order to support and increase the engagement with the art scene in Leeds and to provide a focused dissemination point that enabled creatives at any point of their career to gain visibility in Leeds’ thriving art scene.
There’s an interesting attitude towards websites like ours, with the subject matter (i.e. the art) existing purely for public consumption, should the public be looking towards municipal or independent services to find out what’s going on? For the end-user, we aimed to create a site that facilitated access to the cultural scene regardless of people’s prior knowledge, and since we started building the site, Leeds Inspired arrived,bolstering Leeds’ flourishing online community with supportive and effective municipal service for people to turn to. This hasn’t always been the case, and Leeds Art Map was conceived to fill a gap which is now admittedly smaller. What does remain though is an online community which has grown in the absence of such facilities, the legacy of which is an amazing attitude to supporting and engaging with the services that enter the sphere.
With the Leeds Art Map project our main drive was split between wanting to open up the artistic scene to the public, and providing a service through which any one could gain visibility in the cultural scene, by literally putting them on the map. It was also important it was user-generated - we didn’t want the project to be an expression of what we thought was interesting in the Leeds art scene, rather provide a focal point for anyone to submit a cultural event and for this information to be disseminated in a user-friendly way. I think we see the site as a technology of connection, for people of all sorts to gain access to anddisseminate information about cultural events in Leeds in a straightforward manner.
Our full analysis looks in more detail at aspect such as the provision of art in municipal and independent institutions. Click here full report.
Engagement with our project:
Our database has two sections, there’s the part that stores the information that goes on the map and there’s a similar part which stores the events that people submit to us so that we can check it for accuracy and relevancy before we put it on the map.
We’ve found it very interesting to look through that submissions section and draw conclusions from it. Leeds Art Map is entirely online, we exist in our own space, our ‘shop-front’ is our website and our promotion platform is Facebook and Twitter. Clearly then the kinds of exhibitors using our submission section are those who are more engaged in those social media and online platforms, the kinds of people who you as a visitor to the Leeds Inspired website are likely to have seen engaged in other cultural and Leeds-based websites. That is probably unsurprising, let’s be honest. The more we thought about it though, we realised there’s another unifying similarity between our ‘Submitters’, which is that their exhibitions tend to be the ones that we see less promotion for out in the real world.
When we’re out and about in cafes and galleries we’re on the lookout for flyers and posters for more to add to the Art Map, and miraculously the submissions we receive have tended to fill in the gaps with things we’d not spotted. I’d speculate that this is a conscious effort to balance the cost and effort of physical promotion with the ease and of reaching mass-audience using the online services that exist. That’s not to suggest that sites like ourselves are an alternative to physical promotion by any means. I’m sure that these exhibitors promote the old-fashioned way, and so they should if they want to capture the audience they want, the ‘visual’, ‘tactile’, ‘arty’ folk less geeky than the rest of us. However, at a time when money is tight it is reassuring to see that the art scene in Leeds is moving with the times and getting value from the services such as Leeds Inspired, ourselves, and twitter to maximise their visibility.
We’re currently working on collaborations with two really exciting projects, LoveArtsFestivalin October 2012, and the DividedWeFall event in March 2013. Both are art/culture festivals based in Leeds, and we’re creating sections of our site just for them, allowing use of our mapping techniques tailored to their specific needs.
A current priority for us is to improve our visibility in universities and colleges, particularly creative departments, so that students know they can use our service for free to promote their work and exhibitions. We’ve been in discussion with both universities, who sympathise with this aim and we are currently discussing collaborations.
Danny and Tom