UToledo Urban Affairs Center Creates GIS Culture Trail for Arts Commission

April 14, 2022 | News, UToday, Alumni
By Kirk Baird

With the goal of providing Toledo residents and visitors a Culture Trail of area art installations, the Toledo Arts Commission reached out to the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center at The University of Toledo for help.

UToledo faculty and students at the Urban Affairs Center used GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to create a virtual map that users can access via their cell phones and computers to plot routes for walking, biking and even riding the bus to Toledo-area artworks.

Dr. Sujata Shetty, left, and Ph.D. student Nafula Barasa from the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center at UToledo pose at the bronze sculpture “Root Dancer.” The Main Campus artwork is among the 350-plus art-related sites the pair mapped out for a GIS culture trail for the Toledo Arts Commission.

The purpose of the Culture Trail is to bring people to the arts — literally.

“Someone who wants to go on a two-mile walk from where they live could search for what routes they can take and then go and see all the murals on that route,” said Dr. Sujata Shetty, director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center and professor in the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning. “Or, if someone wants to see a particular sculpture, then they can map a route to see it.”

The initial plan was to make maps of cultural assets already in existence, she said. But as the Culture Trail quickly came together, its scope was expanded beyond artworks and murals.

At this point, the Culture Trail includes more than 350 sites, including The University of Toledo. The breakdown consists of:

•  136 murals;

•  91 cultural and community assets;

•  60 sculptures;

•  35 history markers; and,

•  35 cultural resource points.

“The plan is to eventually include music venues and restaurants – all of those things that might be considered a cultural asset,” Shetty said.  It will also include information like bus routes, bike lanes, bike racks and walking paths, making it easy for people to make their way to various locations.

Mapping of the Culture Trail was started in Fall 2020 by Nafula Barasa, a Ph.D. student in the Spatially Integrated Social Science program and the Department of Geography and Planning, working with the Urban Affairs Center.

“The project was a great learning point for me, especially as an international student new to the city,” Barasa said. “I was able to learn more about the city’s rich cultural places and parks through a computer, and at the same time it helped me navigate through the city with ease as I had visuals from the maps.

“I also visited some of the parks we mapped and had quality time with friends.”

Shetty said she was happy to partner with the Arts Commission on this project and that she hopes to continue to help expand the Culture Trail to include more must-see places and spaces in the area.

“I think what made this most appealing is that this is really an effort to open up what Toledo already has to all the residents of the city,” she said. “We have wonderful museums, but we have wonderful assets outside of these museums as well. It’s important that this art and culture be accessible, and to make that possible, it would be good to show people how they might be able to get to these wonderful assets in the city.”

Work on this project is continuing and it is not yet available to the public.















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