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Founded in 2001 as an American non-profit organization, Art Forces works in the intersection of trauma, memory, creativity, resilience, and resistance, making visible the connections between struggles for social justice globally and histories that have been obliterated or forgotten. Its goal is to engage the public on multiple levels to create potential spaces for critical thinking and action that advances progressive social change.

Art Forces uses community public art and technology, including murals, websites, social and new media, to inspire critical thinking and action. It works in partnership with a wide range of organizations, from mental health programs to environmental and material aid organizations, to schools and cultural centers. 

Jeffrey Scarmazzi, a GISCorps volunteer in Washington D.C. was selected to assist Art Forces. The objective of the project is to deepen the viewer’s experience of mural projects on-site and remotely, providing a multi-media opportunity to explore the mural’s context and meaning. Specifically, Art Forces sought help with the Olympia-Rafah Solidarity Mural Project (ORSMP). Previously, a student from the Evergreen State College effectively used ArcGIS Online to create a prototype for ORSMP using Story Maps. The goals of the current project were to review this initial application, consult with Art Forces and ORSMP on how it might be improved, and deliver an improved mobile solution for an ORSMP event and beyond.

Jeffrey focused on reorganizing existing data into a model suitable for ArcGIS Online products, ensuring that ArcGIS Experience Builder would be the right solution for the project goals, and implementing everything required for the final application. When the project started, a new photo for ORSMP was being taken, so a rough draft of the application was developed for the La Lucha Continua mural instead. Starting with a smaller mural allowed them to quickly iterate on a template (outlined below) that had four components: Hosted Tile Layer, Hosted Feature Layer, Web Map, and Experience Builder. Once Susan Greene, Art Forces’ director, and Jeffrey felt that the template was sufficient, they adapted it for the Olympia Rafah Mural.

Olympia Rafah Mural – Experience Builder App

The core functionality of the application revolves around exploring a photo of the mural. ArcGIS Pro was used to generate a Tile Package that was then published as a Hosted Tile Layer in ArcGIS Online. This was a fairly straightforward GIS process, but it helped Art Forces understand the costs involved with storage within their ArcGIS Online organization. 

Hosted Tile Layer

Hosted Feature Layer

Allowing users of the applications to search for mural content and then get directed to that section of the mural required a Hosted Feature Layer. ArcGIS Pro was again used to develop the baseline schema, digitize on top of the published Hosted Tile Layer, and then publish the Hosted Feature Layer into ArcGIS Online. 

ArcGIS Pro data model
Data Model in ArcGIS Pro
Digitizing in ArcGIS Pro

Web Map

Once the Hosted Tile Layer and Hosted Feature Layer were complete, they were added to a Web Map. The Hosted Tile Layer, along with a black background, was used as the basemap and the Hosted Feature Layer was adjusted so that the symbology were invisible.

Experience Builder

The project’s initial assumptions were that Story Maps would be the best tool to explore a given mural. After a brief investigation, they found that the best way to provide a companion app that would allow someone to quickly navigate the mural would be Experience Builder. However, Story Maps will still be very useful for explaining the history of the mural and can be easily embedded into or linked from Experience Builder.

One of the key features in Experience Builder for this project was the ability to develop different layouts for desktop and mobile, but still offer a single URL for users of the application. This made it easy to share the app with Art Forces and open up collaboration as the configuration progressed. Although we were pleased with the results, there are definitely items that can be revisited in future engagements. For example, not every mural component had an audio link and the configuration in Experience Builder did not always have a good option for telling the user that data was missing. Another concern was general UX issues revolving around how selections would stack or conflict as the user made choices in the map or list. Ultimately, Experience Builder delivered a viable product in a relatively short turnaround time. 

GISCorps provided excellent support for Art Forces goal of mapping its murals. The services were priceless and have helped take Art Forces murals to a new level.

Project completed.

Art Forces
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