Visitors to the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden can now use their cell phones to access a new kind of museum audio guide. Art on Call, a free information system, features artists and curators discussing selected artworks in the collection and provides up-to-the-minute details on current exhibitions, programs, and events as well as information on building hours and ticket purchases. Callers dialing 612.374.8200, any time day or night, inside or outside the Walker, are guided through the system—the first of its kind in a U.S. art center—by Minnesota Public Radio host Mary Lucia (89.3 The Current). Art on Call provides 24/7 access to artists such as Chuck Close, Claes Oldenburg, Yoko Ono, and Kara Walker as well as a growing range of other art world celebrities, curators, and experts. For a complete list of artworks that can be accessed with Art on Call, visit newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc/.
Unlike traditional museum audio tours, Art on Call is designed for spontaneity and immediacy both for the visitor and the staff programming it. For visitors, Art on Call is there for them when they want it. If they find themselves in front of an artwork that inspires them, they simply pull out their cell phone, dial the Art on Call number and then learn, laugh, or be challenged. “Very much like having an audio version of the Walker’s award-winning Web projects in your pocket, this is an information on-demand approach letting visitors choose when and where, and in some ways how, to access information before, during, and after a visit,” said Robin Dowden, the Walker’s Director of New Media Initiatives. For the Walker, Art on Call’s advanced technology and integrated design allows for automatic updates of the Walker’s calendar and artist information directly from the Web site. The audio clips are a standard MP3 format allowing for quick creation and addition of new material on an ongoing basis. These same MP3 files are also available to the public through the Walker’s Web site (newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc/) as well as in a Podcast version, which can be downloaded to an iPod or other MP3 player. One of the program’s developers, Scott Sayre of Minneapolis-based Museum411 explained, “The user-friendliness and tight integration of the system’s design encourages a level of programming spontaneity not possible with traditional systems. A visiting artist interview can be added or an event changed within a matter of minutes and that new content is instantly available for access through a wide range of personal devices.”
Also distinguishing Art on Call from other museum audio tours is its use of archival material. Many of the artist voices within the program are drawn directly from the Walker’s vast, ever-growing collection of historical audio and video recordings produced over the past 50 years, making many of them publicly available for the first time.
Register to Win an Apple iPod Shuffle
Through January 2006, the Walker is evaluating visitors’ use and response to Art on Call. Users completing a three-minute survey can register to win an Apple iPod Shuffle. Visit the Walker, bring your cell phone, and give the art a call: 612.374.8200.