Detroit’s office of Arts, Culture & Entrepreneurship (Detroit ACE) announced Wednesday it is partnering with CANVS, an art technology company, to identify all the outdoor art on city walls.
ACE Director Rochelle Riley announced the initiative during a news conference in front of Chroma, a co-working office space in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood. The CANVS collaboration, which involves an iPhone application and an online map, is part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s “Blight to Beauty” campaign promoting public art.
Riley declared the upcoming season “the summer of Detroit murals,” and said ACE will begin enlisting “mural hunters,” an army of supporters who will help enter murals into the registry.
To better connect residents to murals, CANVS will create a digital map on the ACE webpage that will allow users to create tours of similar murals, or find murals they have seen, but do not remember where.
Lorren Cargill, co-founder of the startup, said one of his company’s missions is to better connect community to art.
“When art becomes more accessible, it allows people to better connect with the city,” he said. “'The Girl with the D Earring' — people know that now. We’re all a part of that context-setting. Once people find the murals and learn about the artists, they’re able to connect with different parts of the city and know Detroit’s artists.”
Cargill said he visited the North End neighborhood, where CANVS loaded the murals from “Girl with the D Earring” artist Sydney James’ BlkOutWalls Festival.
“I had a good time there with all those murals,” he said. “That place is in my mind now. I have stories there. I met people who live there. Street art allows you do that across Detroit.”
The CANVS initiative is cosponsored by the Ford Foundation. Riley and her team were joined in the announcement by Tashif Turner (aka Sheefy McFly); Ralph Andre, co-founder of CANVS; Sam Coons, ACE’s program manager for neighborhood arts development, and Zachary Meers, director of Detroit’s City Walls fellowship program, which hires artists to do specific murals and recently completed its 100th mural.
Launched in 2016 as a passion project, the CANVS Street Art app has expanded to over 100 cities, with more than 2,000 murals aggregated. Andre said the interactive map is “coming really, really soon.”
The platform itself is currently downloadable for iOS users, with an Android version being fast-tracked for availability, Andre said.
“Street art is everywhere; it's ambiguous,” he said. “Everyone sees it, everyone sees the beautiful art, but the stories behind the murals, the artists who create them, almost always go unknown. The inspiration for creating this app was for me to support my artist friends and create this widespread documentation of street art.
"When street art is present in a city, it’s always the prelude to greater creative growth … driving this creative economy.”
Andre emphasized the importance of the "mural hunters" in the effort to collect and catalogue all of the city's murals within the app.
"Mural hunters … literally go to different cities and capture murals," he said. "They tag the artists, they provide all the contextual information. With this mural hunter initiative, we are actively calling all the photographers, all the art enthusiasts of Detroit to grab their cameras, capture murals, and document them, upload them to the CANVS platform, the upcoming mural map of Detroit. Again, we are documenting the history of street art, past and present, across Detroit."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit, CANVS to track murals in iPhone app, online registry