Sorry, Mayor Bloomberg, but New York City won’t be the first city in the world to feature a transmedia walking tour through its busy streets. In a few short weeks, that honor will belong to Davis.
On Friday, Feb. 17, John Natsoulas, in collaboration with Monto H. Kumagai, a software developer, and Finley Fryer, a UC Davis graduate and local artist, will unveil the beginnings of a transmedia sculpture walk highlighting various pieces of artwork in key locations throughout downtown Davis.
The inaugural walk will take place at 4:30 p.m. that day, beginning at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St.
Natsoulas said that besides “Stan, the Submerging Man,” which already is in place in front of the gallery, artwork is scheduled to be installed next week in front of the Davis Commons shopping center at First and E streets; at Dowling Properties at Third and D streets; at Davis Ace Housewares at Third and G streets; and in front of Ace Hardware in the 300 block of G Street.
“These are the first five that will be placed. We will place five more in the month of March,” Natsoulas said. “Our goal is to have at least 15 to 20 new sculptures up by the end of the year.”
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, will be the master of ceremonies for the kickoff event Feb. 17.
Though cities around the world have replicated the idea of an art walk, none can dole out the unique experiences that the walk in Davis will feature.
Each sculpture on the transmedia walk will have a radio frequency identification technology chip embedded into it over which participants will wave their cell phones to interactively learn about each work of art.
Visitors will be able to watch videos about the artist or about the work itself, and they’ll be able to leave remarks about the piece for future participants to view as well.
Not all cell phones yet have the ability to read RFID tags, but Natsoulas said many cell phone companies are headed in that direction. Currently, Nokia and Samsung manufacture phones with the necessary hardware. Apple does not.
Kumagai, who invented the technology that made this possible, explains how this idea will change the way people can experience art. Kumagai is president of Xtremesignpost Inc. in Davis.
“I think that this is really important because oftentimes art is very passive and it shouldn’t be,” Kumagai said. “People look at paintings, but really they have opinions or they see something and it brings back a memory or emotion, and then that memory or emotion is what they then link internally to that painting.
“Well, what we have is the ability to directly link digital information onto an RFID tag to transform and personalize a piece of art.
“We tagged ‘Stan, the Submerging Man,’ and it allows him to be more a of a portal, a doorway to another world,” Kumagai continued. “Here, visitors and participants can look at Stan and then write their experiences, their memories or anything that they want directly onto the sculpture.
“It’s almost like digital graffiti so the next person, if they want, can hold up a cell phone and play back that experience.”
Visitors also will have access to a digital video map that will guide them on their own virtual tours, said a news release from Natsoulas, and “educate themselves about the process and history of multiple artistic creations.”
Fryer also plans to erect another 25-foot interactive sculpture at the Olive Drive offramp from Interstate 80. The work was commissioned by the Cultural Action Committee of Davis and sponsored by the John Natsoulas Center for the Arts, Davis Ace Hardware, Davis Commons and other commercial brokers.
“The 200,000 cars commuting this highway can stop at the Olive Drive exit and witness this massive contribution to art, technology and the cultural entertainment of the local and extended community before it will be seen anywhere else,” read the gallery’s news release.
Natsoulas also said the sculptures included in the art walk can change every year. He plans to add more sculptures to the walk in the future to enhance the participants’ experience.
“If you look at any great sculpture walk, there’s actually about 20 sculptures that can create the amount of time people would like to go on the walk,” Natsoulas said.
“We’re going to be increasing the number of transmedia sculptures in the downtown. Six new pieces will be up by the 17th; six will be up in the next six months.
“You have to have a certain amount of sculptures to keep people’s interest so they actually come here as a destination to look at art,” Natsoulas said.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash