Syracuse University Magazine

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Get the App

The SUArt Galleries app will soon be available for mobile devices as part of the official SU app (sumobile.syr.edu), which can be downloaded for free in iOS, Android, and Blackberry platforms.



SUArt Goes Mobile

With more than 500,000 mobile applications on the Apple platform, it seems the iPhone’s unofficial slogan, “There’s an app for that,” is spot on. Apps range from guitar tuners to hearing aids to a taxonomic guide to dinosaurs. But prior to last spring, the SUArt Galleries—one of the country’s oldest university collections—was completely app-less. Fortunately, SU is brimming with tech-savvy students eager to test their burgeoning skills. Today, thanks to a collaborative effort between the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), when asked where to access information about its 35,000-piece collection, the SUArt Galleries can proudly claim, “There’s an app for that.”

The app—called SUArt Galleries—resulted from an innovative new course, Mobile Application Development and Design. Professors Carlos Caicedo of the iSchool and Denise Heckman of VPA partnered last fall to develop the curriculum. The inaugural class last spring attracted 45 students—roughly half from each school. “To really develop good apps, you need a multidisciplinary team,” Caicedo says.

The course was the first of its kind at SU and posed a number of challenges to students. Since designers and programmers have their own languages, interdisciplinary communication reflects a common challenge in the workplace, Caicedo says. Another challenge involved working with a client with real needs—in this case, Domenic Iacono, director of SUArt Galleries. “The professors wanted it to be a real-world experience, so Carlos told us to hold the students to task for their work,” Iacono says. “The kids held up their end.”

SUArt was one of about 10 organizations to pitch app ideas to the class. Students split into teams and voted on which apps they wanted to develop. In all, the class built five apps, including Iacono’s. Quinton Fletchall ’13, an industrial and interactive design major at VPA, led the SUArt team. “I saw it as a chance to make viewing art more interactive using technology,” Fletchall says. “And I even learned some programming along the way.”

The free app includes information about the gallery and displays works from the collection selected by Iacono. With a tap of the screen, users can access information about any piece of art, including dimensions, creation date, historical context, and other works by the artist. Iacono hopes to eventually digitize the University’s entire collection. Although Iacono isn’t aware of another university that has done a similar project, he has researched museums’ digital efforts for years. His iPhone is filled with page after page of museum apps from around the world. He says the SUArt app most closely resembles that of the Louvre. “This is done with national government funding,” he says while scrolling through the Louvre’s app. “And our students here at SU came up with an almost identical idea. Students always have the best ideas.”     —Chris Baker