First Thursday iPhone app

8 Aug

On the first Thursday of every month, faceless brick buildings and studios big and small open their doors, transforming Pioneer Square into one big, free art festival.

While some of the fun is in the treasure hunt, I’ve found it’s hard to know which studios are participating and I’m left wondering what I’ve missed.  I usually end up defaulting to 619, a building that on its own houses over 100 artists among its 6 stories. It’s also hard to track down an artist you’ve liked before as collections often shift month to month in a given gallery and studio.

First Thursday does create a brochure with information and a map, but it’s not widely distributed.  It is also an inconvenient navigation tool while you’re on the go and it only provides very high level information about a gallery (name, address, phone number and website).  After experiencing a number of these issues first hand, we think an iPhone app could be an extremely useful companion to the art walk.

The First Thursday iPhone app would help people navigate Pioneer Square’s famous art walk and learn more about participating artists and their work.  It would allow you to easily view participating studios and galleries, find out what their hours are and learn about the artist and type of art their hosting. And then, it could help people figure out where they are on a map and navigate to the studios and galleries that are scattered across over 54 blocks.

Background: According to the First Thursday website, First Thursday in Pioneer Square is actually the first art walk in the United States.  In 1981, a group of Pioneer Square art dealers printed handout maps, did small-scale promotions, and painted footprints on the sidewalk outside their galleries on the first Thursday of the month.  Today, Pioneer Square is at the heart of Seattle’s art scene with studios and galleries that span over 54 blocks and a wide range of art from sketches to mixed-media installations that often rotate month to month.

App purpose:

Help curious art lovers explore Seattle’s famous First Thursday art walk in Pioneer Square and learn more about participating artists and their collections.


An iPhone app could allow both locals and tourists to better explore and appreciate this vibrant and organic art scene and community.  It would provide an on-the-go tool where people can easily find and navigate to participating studios and galleries, and learn more about the art and artist.

While First Thursday does have a paper walking map, it is pretty cumbersome to unfold this 20×30 poster-sized map and it is only updated yearly, so the information is static and pretty high level.  Additionally, we found that the map was only available in small quantities at a random table in Occidental Park and the website and walking map listed different start times for First Thursday.  An iPhone app would better serve the First Thursday explorer, because the information can be at your fingertips and much more dynamic.  Venue and artist information could be updated frequently by artists and visitors – allowing you to look at a GPS-enabled map, filter for studios/galleries, and share and connect with others.


The First Thursday’s audience is comprised of community-conscious art enthusiasts, art investors, and tourists in the area who come to experience the talent of local artists in the form of visual and performance arts.  It is difficult to gauge the exact number of attendees to First Thursdays each month due to the numerous indoor exhibitions from private galleries combined with public exhibits along the pioneer square streets and parks. Generally, based on observation alone Pioneer Square First Thursdays can attract hundreds of visitors each month.


Scenario 1:  Jen is a tourist and has just got off a bus near Pioneer Square and is excited to explore First Thursday, but isn’t sure where to start. She pulls out the iPhone app to help get oriented and decide on her first stop.

Jen decides to search for the “most popular” exhibits since she is unfamiliar with the artists in Seattle. Upon selecting the “most popular” option in the menu, she can browse the exhibits and access additional information about the exhibit and artist and map out directions to her desired gallery.

Jen highlights Damien Hirst “End of an Era” by pressing the listing once then taps the arrow to proceed to the next screen. From this screen, she is able to view detailed information about the exhibit and samples of the artist’s work by pressing the header image (or hit the back button *not displayed to return to the previous listings). She likes what she sees and decides she wants to map directions to Damien’s exhibit. She returns to the information screen by tapping the info button on the bottom right of the menu bar.

Jen will now map out directions to the gallery. From the information screen she taps the address listed in the center and is directed to a map, which will use here current location to map directions. Jen selects the “get directions” button and is on her way to the gallery.

Scenario 2:  Kanye is a long time Seattle resident who knows his way around the city. He recently purchased a new penthouse on 5th Avenue and Madison Street downtown and wants to decorate his new apartment with some Japanese artwork to impress his friends and colleagues. He knows there should be some exhibits featuring Japanese Artwork at First Thursday and turns to the iPhone app to pinpoint them.

First, Kanye will choose “categories” and select the type of Art he is looking for: Paintings.

Kanye will now search for “Japanese Art” within the Paintings category.

Kanye decides to “show all search listing on a map” so he can make sure he visits all the galleries exhibiting Japanese artwork while he is walking to the center of the First Thursday area. He clicks on one of the selections by pressing the blue arrow to view information about the exhibit in more detail and to view some of the artwork by pressing the header image within the information listing.

Kanye returns to the information screen to get the address of the gallery by pressing the info button in the bottom right taskbar. Since Kanye knows his way around the city and lives only a few blocks away he can simply read the address off the information screen proceed to walk over to the exhibit.

Scenario 3: Eva is a frequent visitor to First Thursday and she wants to remember her favorite studios that are off the beaten path and share the experience with her friends.  She takes photos of her favorite artwork and has a collection of business cards from artists she wants to be sure to remember.  She loves the quirky studios that have fun themes like Punch Gallery and the ones that have great snacks and free wine, and wants to let her friends know.  She turns to the iPhone app to add galleries to her favorites and share her photos and reviews with friends and the First Thursday community.

First, Eva selects the “Art Highlight” feature within the menu bar of the application. (*Note the menu bar is scrollable to access other features.) From the “Art Highlight” screen, Eva is able to choose a photo from her smartphone photo gallery and save to the application by pressing the “choose photo” option.  Then, using the business cards she collected Eva can tag the photo by title of work and artist name. In addition, Eva has the option to choose and tag all her favorite artworks within the window. (As Eva accumulates more art, a scroll bar will appear.)

After selecting and tagging her favorite artworks, Eva wants to share her experiences by selecting the arrow next to the artwork she wants to share.  Eva tags the photo with a date and time, enters a description, and has the option to share via email, twitter (for photo sharing via twitter the photo will be uploaded via yfrog and shared via url) or Facebook.

Eva chooses Facebook and proceeds to upload the information to Facebook.

Scenario 4:  Kara has been to a number of different studios and galleries on the art walk, but has found an artist with the most amazing paintings.  She’s not sure what the prices are, but wants to learn more about the artist and his vision, but he’s busy talking to a group of people already.  Kara opens up her iPhone app to see what information he’s listed about his art and to send him a note through the app.

First Kara will open the First Thursday application and search for the listing of her desired artist in the pioneer square area by typing in the artist name within the search box.  Once found, Kara can press the artist listing to view detailed information about the artist.

Kara is now able to view information about her artists exhibit. She can view some samples of his work by pressing the header image (A) or send him an email from the application (B).

A.  Upon pressing the header image on the info screen, she will be directed to a gallery view of the artist work. In this window, she can view full screen high-resolution images of the artists’ work. By pressing thumbnail of the image, she can view the artwork full screen and flick through the artworks by sliding her finger to the right or left or simply pressing the play button to view the artwork as a slideshow. The last slide of the artist gallery will list the artists direct contact info and his personal website for reference where she can inquire about purchasing some of the artist’s work.

B.  If Kara chooses to email the artist from the information screen she will be directed to an email window with the artist email alias pre populated.  You will have options to send email or cancel both option will direct you back to the previous information screen when executed.


Below, we have grouped major features of the First Thursday app into 3 different versions.  In version 1, we plan to focus on the surfacing basic navigation, venue and artist information.  In version 2, we look to bring in more personalized and interactive features.  And in version 3, we look for partners that can broaden the reach of the app.

Version 1

  • Location Services: integration with Google maps to display studios relative to your current location
  • List:
    • View studio > then drill down to see hours, artist(s), type of art
    • View by artist > drill down to bios and showcase of art (photos/videos)
    • View by art/exhibit category (e.g. drawing, sculpture, photography)
  • Search functionality
  • On venue page: description of gallery/studio, address, hours, photo gallery of art, ratings, and comments
  • About page that lists information about First Thursday, the website URL and a link to next steps if you’re a sponsor or artist that wants to participate.

Version 2

  • Display a featured artist/artwork
  • Incorporate nearby restaurants on map
  • Planning a specific art walk path and sharing this with friends
  • Add artists/artwork to a Favorites folder
  • Action sheet where you can connect with artists by email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Calendar reminders for First Thursday or events by your favorite artist/venue

Version 3

  • Possible integration with FourSquare
  • Possible integration with Seattle Art Museum
  • Tastefully weave in advertisements for sponsors/advertisers

Data sources:

The First Thursday website and the Alliance for Pioneer Square would be a great start for an initial base of information about participating venues.  The website currently lists 86 venue profiles with a main photo, address, description, art category, typical hours, and sometimes featured exhibit.  Additionally, their website has a profile request form if you want to be listed in the participating venues section, so we would want to get access to submissions so we could also update the app.

We would also want to actively promote this app among the artists and gallery owners and possibly just walk and call to gather and confirm the information we want listed.  There is an incentive for them to list and update their information to attract additional foot traffic and grow awareness of their art.  When we chatted with one of the vendors who had a mobile booth in Occidental Park, she agreed that most people would be happy to help give their information or at least a business card to get an app started.  The Dumbo Art under the Bridge Festival app, which we discuss below, leveraged participation from the artists and they received artist biographies, statements, photos and videos.

Lastly, we would want to invite the community to help keep information current and to flesh out information about the venues as they each often have their own quirks, styles and attractions.

Competing apps:

There aren’t any true competitors here, however, there are a few apps I stumbled upon while searching through iTunes that serve as really good models for how this First Thursday app could work to help solve some of the above key scenarios.

Dumbo Art under the Bridge Festival (Free in iTunes) – This app was created to help people navigate the 3 day art festival in Brooklyn.  The digital map helps with initial orientation, showing your current location and the closest exhibits and other attractions.  Additionally, the map connects into the schedule of events tab to show art events within the next 2 hours.  This format could be leveraged by artist performances or to show gallery hours for First Thursday.

Additionally, you can dive deeper into an artwork to view photos and videos, recorded statements, and additional information from the artists to learn more and their art.  This artist/artwork info page could be leveraged by people trying to find a specific artist, studio, or type of artwork or by people who want to learn more about the artists and artwork when they’re curious to learn more, connect with the artist, or invest in the artwork.

The Brooklyn Museum app has a nice visual layout for listing exhibitions that could help people browse through different art categories and artists.

The Portland Art Museum app shows a possible main navigation screen that could showcase a featured artwork, which would be inviting for people who aren’t sure where to start in the First Thursday art walk.  And, their museum map layout shows how studios and galleries that are divided into multiple rooms such as the 619 building could be treated to help people navigate.

NY ArtBeat, an art and design events guide, allows you to browse over 700 current and upcoming art events through smart data organization and community reviews by media, schedules, and location, and categories like closing soon, most popular, open late, and free. The ability to leverage UGC such as reviews and recommendations and allow people to sort by some of these filters could help people find the studios and galleries not to miss on First Thursday. This would also give people who want to contribute and share their experiences a place to do so.

Artnear pro helps you find galleries and museums around the world, and browse and see images of current shows, openings and more.  The bookmark feature that lets you save your favorite venues and shows for easy reference later could be great to include in the First Thursday app to cater to frequent art walk enthusiasts and investors.

Possible organization sponsor:

We would target the Pioneer Square Community Association as our government sponsor for the iPhone app.  PSCA is the core sponsor for the First Thursday art walk, artist’s market in Occidental Park, and the First Thursday website.

The mission and vision for PSCA align nicely with the goal of the First Thursday iPhone app.  The PSCA is a non-profit organization devoted to the betterment of Pioneer Square with a mission to create housing and community development opportunities in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Their funding is coming from the city, business and property owners, and the major sports franchises. Former Seattle mayor Charley Royer and Nitze-Stagen developer Kevin Daniels co-chair the group, which is operating under the slogan “New Energy for Seattle’s Historic Neighborhood.”

Support from the PSCA would also be quite practical since their website and the First Thursday website currently contains abundant information about the Pioneer Square district and art walk such as attractions, landmarks, local vendors, cafes and restaurants, bars, and more. These databases of information and the design elements from the First Thursday website could serve as a strong base for the iPhone app.

Other possible sponsors include CityArts, Seattle’s Convention and visitors Bureau, Seattle Art Blog, and City of Seattle – Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, all of whom have supported the First Thursday website in some way.

Since the First Thursday app is aiming to providing a practical and social tool that can better boost awareness and participation in this local event, the benefit of the app will help to reach PSCA’s goals that making Pioneer Square the most unique, eclectic, and dynamic neighborhood in Seattle.


One Response to “First Thursday iPhone app”


  1. Week 7 : Negotiating the Apple Store | MCDM Smartphone Class - 9 August 2010

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