App connects community to more than 14,000 works of art

May 25, 2017

App connects community to more than 14,000 works of art

Posted on May 25, 2017

Grand Valley is home to more than 14,000 pieces of art originating from six different continents. They adorn the halls of more than 120 buildings, beautify the walkways and lawns across all campuses and regional centers, and enrich various curriculums.

Aside from being available to those who physically visit one of Grand Valley’s campuses, the university’s vast art collection is digitally accessible through an innovative mobile app.

The Art at GVSU app is a free mobile application for iPhone and Android devices that provides users with a complete list of artworks in the university’s collection. The app utilizes Google Maps to precisely pinpoint the location on campus of every individual work of art. If a piece is located inside of a building, the app will even tell users which floor it is located on.

Details about each piece are also included with entries on the app, including biographical information about the artists, medium type, physical descriptions and related artwork in the collection.

Once users find their favorite pieces of art, social media integration is simple through the app.

“We wanted it to be easy for our community to share their favorite artwork with their friends and family,” said Nathan Kemler, curator of Collections Management at Grand Valley and project and creative lead for the app. “The app is connected directly to our art collections database system, which also powers our online art collection, so once someone shares a piece of art through social media services, the URL link is shared so others may view the details of the artwork online easily.”

Additionally, the app allows users to act as their own tour guides through pre-curated tours complete with walking routes, such as outside sculptures on the Allendale Campus, GVSU favorites, and collections by specific artists.

The iOS version of the app was recently updated to include a QR code scanning feature so users can scan the QR codes found on the placards associated with each piece of artwork. This feature is already available for Android devices. 

In the future, the Galleries and Collections team at Grand Valley hopes to implement additional features to the app, including tablet optimization and the ability for students and faculty to submit their own contributions.

“If an original musical composition, dance choreography, research paper, or work of poetry has been written or performed that was inspired by a particular piece of art, we want to share those end products with future users of the app,” said Kemler. “We are also exploring new ways to add in additional levels of social engagement via gaming.”

Kemler said that the “favorites” feature on the app is popular among faculty.

“It’s an easy and quick way to save an individual piece for future reference for use in the classroom and in support of the university’s strategic plan,” he explained. “These favorite lists can be emailed and then viewed online at any later date.”

For Matthew Daley, associate professor of history, the Art at GVSU app affords him opportunities to help students get comfortable using apps beyond casual use and to consider how they impact their interactions with art and physical locations.

“For my urban history course, I use the app to have students consider artists, such as Mathias Alten, and how they depict the changing face of the Grand River and how they address urban landscapes in Grand Rapids despite an unease relating to the impact of industry,” Daley explained. “I also plan to use the app for an upcoming digital studies course on archiving and preservation to help students consider how having art in a digital environment both makes particular types of preservation possible, but also changes our relationship to the physical objects and then how to address art created in the digital environment.”

The creation of the Art at GVSU app was a team effort. The app is an ongoing project that has been developed over the past six years by faculty and students from Grand Valley’s Mobile Applications Service Lab in the School of Computing and Information Systems. Team members have included Jonathan Engelsma, professor of computing and information systems; Hans Dulimarta, associate professor of computing and information systems; and students Andres Solano, Juan Meijer, Sam Serpoosh, Mohamed Azuz, Kirthi Samson and Josiah Campbell. The team additionally collaborated with Seth Kaufmann from Collective Access based in Brooklyn, New York.

Henry Matthews, director of Galleries and Collections, said the digital accessibility of the university’s art collection makes Grand Valley unique.

"It's an extraordinary thing for an institution like ours to have its entire collection online and accessible this way,” he said. “Most museums in this country— in the world — don't have that. It is an extraordinary gift to students, faculty, staff and the broader community."

For more information about the Art at GVSU app, visit

For More Information Contact: Matthew Makowski in University Communications - (616) 331-2228

Original article posted on GVNOW

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Page last modified May 25, 2017