Interview by Erin Armstrong
EA: Lara, I want to start by thanking you for taking the time to speak with me and to explain to our Digital Humanities class about your work. As you know, I’m incredibly interested in your Mapping Arts Project, which has led to some interesting developments in my own pedagogical aspirations. Could you tell us a little bit about what the Mapping Arts Project is, and where it is headed?
LSP: The Mapping Arts Project is a primarily web-based project that maps cities through places where artists have lived and worked historically. The project is online at mappingartsproject.org, and includes Miami and Providence so far. Denver and Chicago are in development. The project includes archival, spatial, artistic, and ethnographic research and materials. Future plans include continual technological improvement such as the use of mobile locational technologies and the redevelopment of the website to show a global map (vs city maps). In the Spring I’ll be working with students in the course, “Geographies of the Arts,” to launch Mapping Arts-Denver.
EA: Could you explain what started the project? What were some of the biggest challenges (knowledge of coding etc., economically, gaining interest, etc.) you faced, and ones you may still be facing, when you started this?
LSP: I started the project in 2009, while doing ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation on contemporary arts. I wanted to find a book that would tell me about the history of the arts in Miami. I could not find such a book. Instead, I began to conduct archival, ethnographic, and historical research. At first, I thought the project would be a short-lived participatory art project. But, the more research I did, the more I realized it needed to be a bigger project. That’s when I designed and developed the website – to be able to create a broadly accessible and continually growing project. Some of the biggest challenges in the beginning were time and funds to do the initial web development. Oh, also, finding the right team to work with. I have kept the project manageable thus far. Eventually, I will need to raise funds again to expand the technological capabilities of the project.