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Davis, California

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Davis, the first city in America to create transmedia sculpture walk

On Feb. 17, your phone will become an art expert. Or rather, through the innovative method of embedded chips within sculptures, your phone will simply project the aura of a knowledgeable art expert by providing you with information about various pieces of art stationed in Davis by the simple touch of a finger.

The city of Davis will be the first-ever city in America to create a transmedia sculpture walk. California Senator Lois Wolk will personally unveil the 10 sculptures that make up the walk, which will be placed at key locations throughout downtown Davis, on Feb. 17. Additionally, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., John Natsoulas Gallery will host a launch party, which celebrates the transmedia art walk’s official opening.

The Sculpture Walk is a groundbreaking collaboration of modern art with the latest development in Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID). Similar to the audio devices that museums provide to its visitors so that they can learn more about certain paintings without needing a human guide, the transmedia sculpture walk utilizes groundbreaking cellphone technology that allows smartphone users to readily access information about a specific piece of art.

This monumental project was made possible by the hard work of three men who are advocates of the local Davis art community. John Natsoulas, local gallery owner, Dr. Monto H. Kumagi, software developer, and Finley Fryer, monumental sculptor and contemporarily renowned artist, are the figures behind the project. All three men live close to Davis. In fact, Kumagi grew up in Davis with Natsoulas, and Fryer regularly shows his work at Natsoulas’ gallery located on First Street.

Natsoulas had originally organized a sculpture walk back in the 1980s when it took a year to assemble everything. In that time, the three men decided to take Kumagi’s patented method of personalizing consumer products using RFID and apply it to the various pieces that constitute the sculpture walk.

Kumagi described in detail the many things that the technology can provide to the participants of the walk.

“The public can write links to music, photos and videos directly onto RFID-tagged items,” Kumagi said. “At a later point in time they can retrieve, display and share the information using RFID-enabled cell phones. The concept behind interactive transmedia art is to allow the sculpture to transform from one dimension into an opening to another world, to change the stone into a liquid, fluid, dynamic, interactive experience.”

Every Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m. through the rest of the year, guided tours will commence at the base of Fryer’s sculpture, “Stan the Submerging Man.” Stan is the tall, mostly-blue sculpture made from discarded fragments of plastic that is erected outside of the Natsoulas Gallery on the corner of First and E Street. Originally commissioned by the Black Rock Foundation for the 1999 Burning Man, Stan now stands outside one of the most progressive art spaces in the country.

Fryer, who created several pieces of art for the walk, wholeheartedly supports the intertwining of technology with modern art.

“The transmedia movement is a natural evolution, a marriage of art and science that will lead both the artist and the viewer down a path never traveled,” Fryer said. “With the embedded near-field chips acting as a kind of worm hole, it provides the connective link that places the viewer into the internal dialog. Absolutely a match made in heaven.”

For those who like to catch up on their much-missed sleep, Sculpture Walk maps are available at local businesses in Davis. Natsoulas hopes that this pioneering sculpture walk will be the beginning of more public arts projects to come later on. Working with the Cultural Action Committee, Natsoulas plans to set up an Art in Public Places Fund in which a fundraiser will be held every year to help a local artist create a piece of public art for the community, which will then be added to the Sculpture Walk.

“It’s wonderful to work with the community to make this happen. All of the business owners downtown and property owners have been most helpful, and the artists have all devoted a great deal of their time and energy,” Natsoulas said.

An online version of the Sculpture Walk map can be found at culturalactioncommittee.com.

MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

1 COMMENT

  1. An error was made on this article, which was published on page 4 of Thursday’s paper.

    Dr. Monto H. Kumagai is spelt incorrectly as “Kumagi” in the article.

    We will run a correction in Monday’s paper. The Aggie regrets the error.

    -Uyen Cao
    Aggie Arts Editor

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