Mobile App Puts Cape Cod Art Scene in 3G

A mocked screenshot of the ArtApp Cape Cod, a new app for mobile devices that has potential to radically change the art landscape around town.

Photo Courtesy of ArtsApp Cape Cod - A mocked screenshot of the ArtApp Cape Cod, a new app for mobile devices that has potential to radically change the art landscape around town.

ArtsApp Cape Cod, an interactive mobile app available on all Apple, Androide and mobile-web enabled smartphones, is currently accepting enrollment from artists, galleries, centers, museums, and theaters.

The free-to-download smartphone app will be available in April of 2013 and will likely be the first of its kind, according to Clare O'Connor, director of economic initiatives at the chamber.

O'Connor said that research done by the chamber has found similar apps for studio walks, but they have not encountered anything "quite like this."

The innovative app brings the chamber's Arts and Artisans Trails guidebook into the digital age, and offers versatility impossible with the yearly print publication.

The main function, explained project assistant Nick Marroides, is the Artist Directory, making searches possible by medium of the artist, for example, by potters, or by centers or by galleries. An interactive map comprises the second component and displays the current location of the user; a tap of the screen calls up the content for nearby artists or galleries, including basics such as location and hours of operation to more modern contact information such as Twitter handles and links to websites.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, funded by a nearly $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, has partnered with chambers on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Coastal Community Capital and Dave Owens of TapWalk, developer of the app.

Previously held small focus groups of Cape artists have contributed to the development of the app and its features. Through a recent series of eight meetings in towns across the Cape, the chamber is now introducing the app to the wider arts community and garnering feedback.

The native app can be accessed online through a traditional computer and on the mobile device version, or users can download the app, which does not require the Internet. Users can choose from three separate apps for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.

A more recent technological innovation in promotion, the QR code, is also integrated in the app and codes can be tailored to each individual artist.

Ms. O'Connor pointed out particular benefits of the app for a seasonal region. While the Arts Trails guidebook faced the challenge of information becoming out of date, she said, "almost as soon as it was printed," items such as hours of operation can be updated easily on the app.

The print version, published annually, also required listings with a history of regular opening hours and public accessibility. The app, Ms. O'Connor said, allows for a wider array of individual artists, galleries, and centers to be included.

Similar to the print publication, the app will be free to download by users. Listing in the app for artists, galleries, and centers currently costs $150 and for the first year includes a one-year membership to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. In the event that the app does not reach its target participation by the date of launch, Ms. O'Connor said that sponsorships and other fundraisers will occur.

But, Ms. O'Connor said, she is committed that the app replicate the "experiential" feel of the guidebook and that it is not a "shopping guide." She explained that "early adopters" will continue to help shape the growth of the app so that it does not become "overloaded but is rich enough that it's a valuable user experience."

Addressing the notion that the "retired" community on the Cape might not be the demographic to make use of a smartphone app, Ms. O'Connor cited statistics to support the chamber's belief that a smartphone app is the "way to go" for the future. Over half "of US leisure travelers have mobile devices and 63 percent use them in planning their trip, while 89.2 percent use them during travel." The potential to reach even conservative percentages of the 5 million visitors to the Cape each year is great, she said.

Hollis Engley of Hatchville Pottery participated in an early focus group and submitted his payment at the end of the session, becoming one of the first artists to be listed. Mr. Engley knows that visitors have arrived at his "off the beaten path" studio "guided by their GPS or Google Maps." He feels the app "puts craftspeople in front of a wider buying public. It's a very smart thing for the chamber to do," he said.

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