The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo will be saving a lot of trees.
The monthly Art Hop brochures it produces, delivers, and mails out by the thousands before each monthly event will be phased out and replaced by a digital app.
The Arts Council hopes that this change, which will be in place when the monthly in-person Art Hop resumes, will make the event easier for attendees to navigate while doing less harm to the environment, says Arts Council Executive Director Kristen Chesak.
“We have come to the conclusion that taking a month to try to pull together and print a brochure is probably not the best use of our resources,” Chesak says. “Because we have all sorts of technology at our disposal now, it might be easier for folks to use their phones to be able to navigate Art Hop.”
The Arts Council has been developing the app, or responsive website, since last fall. The app has Global Positioning System (GPS) connectivity.
“It’s interactive in the sense that you’ll be able to navigate your way through Art Hop using the pins and be able to click on those pins and see what business you’ll be going to and who the artist is,” Chesak says.
The app won’t track users after the event but, while users are using it, will provide up-to-date information. The Arts Council will continue to use on-site sandwich boards with large Art Hop posters and way-finding signs, launched by the Arts Council in February, to signify venues.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, the app will allow for participating artists to gain more exposure, says Chesak.
“Using the app allows us to be able to let artists decide to participate a little later in the process, which is nice. It’ll also be a little more robust because for budgetary reasons in the brochure we’ve only ever been able to let people give us a 25-word description of what the Art Hop stop is about,” she says.
Artists and businesses can opt to include links, videos and photos into their description in the app, for a more detailed and educational experience, says Chesak.
“We are really excited to have this expanded information so that you might be looking at somebody’s paintings and be able to read a little bit more about the artist, about who they are and where they’ve come from and how maybe that journey has influenced their work,” she says.
Chesak hopes the app will encourage attendees to branch out and see more of what Art Hop has to offer.
“I think what the app will do is open up people’s understanding that Art Hop is not just downtown, it’s not just at (the) Park Trades (Center), although it’s very robust in those two places. But we also have folks in the Vine Street neighborhood and the Edison neighborhood that participate, as well as other neighborhoods,” Chesak says.
For those who still prefer to hold a paper schedule in their hands, a version will be available online to download and print, but the Arts Council will no longer be mailing brochures.
“(The app) will replace the brochure, and part of it is us trying to be a little more sensitive from an environmental standpoint,” says Chesak. The Arts Council had been printing nearly 4,500 brochures a month, mailing half of those and distributing the rest at participating venues and public locations.
“The brochure is only good for three hours, and then it’s not,” says Chesak. “So, for three hours of use it really seems like a lot of paper and a lot of ink that can be replaced really easily by this technology.”
Art Hop typically falls on the first Friday of the month. The app was scheduled to launch at the April Art Hop to coincide with Earth Month and bring attention to the amount of resources that people use, says Chesak. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, April’s event became an online “Virtual Art Hop.” The app will officially launch at the next in-person Art Hop.