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April 30, 2018

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Imagine being out and about in Johnson County and seeing an intriguing piece of public art. With your smartphone, you can learn about its history, the artist who created it and its meaning.

A new website currently in production will soon put all of this information at your fingertips, all in the name of enhancing the arts and increasing art awareness.

Details of this collaboration between Johnson County Community College, the University of Kansas and the Arts Council of Johnson County will be shared and celebrated on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, from 4 to 6 p.m. in JCCC’s CoLab (OCB 100). This free event is open to art lovers, historians, storytellers and technophiles.

Learn how the collaboration came about, meet the people involved and find out how the website will elevate appreciation of the arts in the community. Created by students, the website is scheduled to launch in Spring 2019.  

Here’s how the website is coming to fruition:

  • Students led by Mike Sinclair, faculty within the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Kansas, will be shooting a comprehensive series of photographs for each artwork.
  • Students led by Allison Smith, Professor of Art History at JCCC, are researching the art pieces and writing descriptions to accompany the photos.
  • Students led by Suzanne Smith, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at JCCC, will build a database to house the art images and narratives.
  • Students led by James Hopper, Professor of Web Development and Digital Media at JCCC, plan to incorporate storytelling techniques to enhance the content.

Allison Smith said that working on the project has been a great opportunity for her students as well as herself.  Her students typically write a research paper on a museum art piece, but writing for the website has introduced Smith and her students to new art and artists.

“This has been a refreshing change of pace. I’ve been able to work with students researching material on contemporary, often local, artists I am less familiar with, giving me a learning opportunity as well,” she said.

Since students were allowed to choose their artwork, many selected pieces near their homes or workplaces. “They’ve gained a greater sense of understanding and appreciation for the public art that they drive past every day,” she said.

JCCC student Jason Huish is participating in creating the website’s database. He, too, said he felt the real-world connection.

"Being a part of such a large collaboration definitely increases my sense of ownership,” he said. “This feels like more than just another class assignment. I'm excited to see how other programs build upon the project."