First Steps to Leading an Art Walk

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First Steps To
Organizing Art Walks
First Steps To
Organizing Art Walks
A Jane’s Walk can highlight what the arts contribute to the life of your city. You can plan a walk that looks at
public art, murals, and grafti, or you can work with local artists to incorporate studio or gallery visits into your
walk. There have been beautiful walks that revealed the history of dance in a city, and walks exploring theatre
and cinema. If your city’s walks so far have focused exclusively on urban planning or history, art walks can add
a lively new dimension to your festival!
You don’t need to be an artist, or any kind of art expert, to lead a Jane’s Walk about art. Like Seleneah More,
below, you might simply love a particular art form and want to research and talk about its importance to your
city. A Jane’s Walk is a walking conversation, and a passionate non-expert can do a great job of getting a
conversation going on public art, music clubs, lming locations in your city, etc. However, if your goal is to get
more people in your city walking and talking with you, bringing your local arts community on board is a good
step to take.
Seleneah More works in urban planning, but for her Jane’s Walk, she wanted to pick a less obvious topic. “I
didn’t want to see Jane’s Walk become a promotion tool of this profession rather than an opportunity to engage
and inform people about urban issues.” She decided to go with something more personal. “Pick a theme that
resonates for you,” is her advice to would-be walk leaders. “Have your own style.” What did that mean for her? “I
am not a dancer, but I love to dance! So touring the dance venues (formal and informal) of my neighbourhood
suited me.”
As a topic, dance turned out to be a natural t for a Jane’s Walk: “Dancing is associated with celebration
— it’s a feel-good topic. So it creates a light-hearted atmosphere for discussing some heavy subjects, like
overdevelopment, or the loss of cheap places of cultural production.”
What did she learn about planning a walk? “I think seeing your topic, and the information you present, as a
stimulus for discussion and debate is useful. I was afrmed and challenged by the discussions during and after
the walk—in between laughing!”
Walk Story 1: Kurilpa Quick Step: Dancing across the Peninsula
Brisbane, Australia
“We started in Ann Arbor with a group of artists and architects,” notes Nick Tobier, city organizer
in the Michigan college town. “That was my favourite walk from the rst year. We were walking
through alleys I had never seen—tiny places, really, that gave you a sense of a creative place without
the notion of being in a museum or designated public forum for art.”
Tobier has worked to expand this notion of place by developing more walks based around highly-
focused topics, such as one on 19th-century terra cotta tile reliefs which often go unnoticed by
pedestrians, or one designed for 8-to-11-year-olds (“Walk Talk and Sketch”) where an architectural
historian pointed out details above street level for children to draw. “You can approach it
thematically from a small detail rather than making it, say, a public art walk.”
Walk Story 2: “What’s Happening Back There? Studios, Studies, and Creative
Spaces Tucked Away”
Ann Arbor, MI, United States
If you’re not familiar with the arts scene in your city, nd out about it! Check local listings for theatre
and performance festivals, art gallery shows, etc.
Reach out to local arts networks and organizations. (If you don’t really know of any in your city and a
Google search isn’t helping, you can start by contacting the arts ofce of your municipal or regional
government, and asking them for leads. We’ve provided some helpful links at the end of this guide.)
Talk to people at these organizations who work on outreach and programming. Explain to them what
a Jane’s Walk is, and ask them if they’d consider organizing one as a way of engaging the public with
their work.
Your City Hall most likely has a staff person or ofce responsible for commissioning and promoting
public art. Find out who it is, and get in touch — they’d probably love to lead a Jane’s Walk to show off
art in public spaces.
Most art galleries will host free opening receptions for new exhibitions. Galleries are often clustered
in one neighbourhood, and many hold their openings on the same night. Find out when this happens
in your city, grab a friend, and go on a gallery crawl! See if you can talk to the artists or curators at the
openings. Tell them about Jane’s Walk, and ask them what they think an art-focused walk in your city
should cover. See if any are interested in leading a walk or speaking on one, or if they know people
who would be.
If you’re already familiar with your city’s arts scene, reach out to several of your favorite creators
and performers, explain what the festival is, and invite them to get together for a Jane’s Walk
brainstorming session over coffee or lunch. A bunch of creative minds, bouncing ideas off each other,
are bound to come up with some fun and original walks!
Some Ways To Get Started