Maps Upon Maps, Soon Useful Data Appears

As part of developing the cultural masterplan for our community, people are being encouraged to contribute information to a cultural resource map. The goal is to not only map the active assets in the community, but the potential ones as well.

I have written about this aspect of crowdmapping before. You don’t only notate theatres, art galleries, murals, dance schools, historical markers, etc but shuttered movie houses, former community centers and places where things potentially might occur.

A beautiful fountain in the center of town? Good place for an impromptu concert. Empty lot overgrown with weeds? Our next community garden or maybe a pop-up sculpture park. Blank walls of an abandoned building? We see murals in our future.

In my post two years ago, I used an example which talked about using paper and colored stickers, but as you might imagine there are apps available for this sort of thing as well.

The executive director of the local arts alliance is taking classes in GIS mapping. The goal is to integrate the cultural asset maps with an overlay of every bit of data the county collects and maps. Not only will we (and local government officials) be able to see which neighborhoods lack cultural assets, we will be able to see where public transportation does and doesn’t run thereby limiting access to assets around the county. Likewise, they can cross reference things like frequency of events with trashcan placement in order to better deploy waste disposal.

There is already an app for reporting problems like potholes, broken streetlights, erosion to the county so there are likely to be all sorts of interesting correlations that emerge over time as more data gets added.

There is potential for all sorts of different analysis, including planning and zoning of hotels, housing, supermarkets, parking meters and the like. I think most people are excited by the idea that they will be able to cross reference data they haven’t even anticipated needing yet.

Here is the form we in Macon, GA are using to collect data. The mapping is still in its earliest stages so very few assets have been added yet. (I plead guilty to not doing my part.) There is a plan to cross reference this map with organizations , buildings, historical markers, etc already listed in different databases in order to populate the map with the lower hanging fruit.

Even if you don’t have access to map overlays, the simple paper and sticker process can be an important step toward a constructive conversation. As I noted in my post from a couple years ago, the process

… can go a long way toward solving the problem of involving people who are most impacted by decisions but may not show up to formal meetings. People who don’t feel like they are represented or have their voices heard can gain a measure of confidence that their contributions matter when they are made responsible for imagining/suggesting what a neighborhood might become.

This can especially be true for online submission tools. If you enter the hidden gem attraction at the end of your cul-de-sac and see it appear on the map a couple days later, you can gain the sense that you can contribute in a way that makes a visible difference. There is also an ability to bring recognition to often overlooked information preserved in a neighborhood, but not widely known in the community.  The grave marker of a civil rights advocate at the edge of what is now a cornfield, for example.

Though obviously, this only works if the serving as gatekeepers of the maps are prompt in approving the additions and responsive to the needs of the participants. I’m sure I am not the only one that had to jump through hoops to get Google Maps to correctly reflect closed streets and a change to one way traffic flow.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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