Art Town: Take a virtual tour of Westport

Look for this sticker around town, identifying points of interests on Otocast, and aim your iPhone or Android camera at the QR code to get the app.

Look for this sticker around town, identifying points of interests on Otocast, and aim your iPhone or Android camera at the QR code to get the app.

Miggs Burroughs / Contributed

—A Haiku by Westport Poet Laureate Diane Lowman

Otocast, an app for your iPhone or Android, is the brainchild of Eric Feinsten, who created it in 2007 for the Ossining New York Bi-Centennial celebration. It now boasts virtual tours of hundreds of locations and communities around the world, including Westport.

Appointed by First Selectman Jim Marpe, The Westport Arts Advisory Committee, along with Judith Bacal, who had done similar work for Norwalk, spearheaded the development of a virtual arts and culture tour for Westport. From the comfort of your home, standing on Main Street, or from anywhere in the world, you can explore over 36 points of interest, accompanied by over 300 images and more than 30 audio clips, recorded by our own residents, with help from Kathie Bennewitz, Eve Potts, Marion Morra, Deirdre Kelly, Miggs Burroughs and Nancy Diamond all.

As Judith tells it, “The stories of the places are woven together by the people, history, photographs and artwork that inspired them, and the audio recordings by local residents bring Westport’s culture and history to life. You can hear Jack Mitchell describe growing up on Compo Beach, or life in the early days of Saugatuck as told by Sam Gault and Nick Zeoli, or the amazing story of the Famous Artists School as told by the late, great illustrator Charles Reid, and Jo Fox describing the incredible “David and Goliath” battle which she led to save Cockenoe Island from becoming a nuclear power plant, and many more.”

The idea to use the Ototcast app grew out of an initiative to create “wayfinding” kiosks to help residents and visitors learn more about the town and direct them to landmarks.

“When Otocast was brought to our attention, it seemed like the perfect, and much less expensive “kiosk in your pocket” with visuals, text, audio, and mapping capabilities,” explains Richard Epstein, co-chair of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee. “Simple ‘tours’ could guide the user in discovering the attractions around town. I am extremely proud of the work that our committee has done to develope and organize this app. It elegantly fulfills our mission to preserve and promote Westport’s artistic heritage. Otocast presents a wonderful opportunity for everyone to “Discover Westport,” and we hope that this is just the beginning of a more unified way for our residents, merchants and cultural institutions to connect with each other and highlight the best our town has to offer.”

“The Otocast application exposes Westporters to the art that surrounds us every day,” says First Selectman Jim Marpe. “It encourages anyone with a minute to spare, to stop, listen and absorb the rich history and creative community of Westport. My deepest thanks to the Westport Arts Advisory Committee for spending a tremendous amount of time researching and preparing the materials that make up the Otocast arts tours. I strongly urge all Westporters to download this app and listen to one or more of the 30+ brief, but comprehensive tours when visiting Westport’s major attractions.”

Art Town is a monthly column about the visual arts in Westport. Miggs Burroughs is a lifelong Westport resident and full-time graphic artist since 1972. He is co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments. Ann Chernow has been a Westport resident since 1968. Her artwork has been exhibited locally and worldwide. Chernow is a member of the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Museum Committee and other arts organizations.