“You’ll be with me. Blue group heads out at 6:15,” says David Hardy, Creative Director at ArtsVegas and field trip guide, as he straps a blue paper bracelet onto their wrist.
It's 5:45 p.m. and the small Tastyspace gallery is packed with people checking in to attend the inaugural Las Vegas Fieldtrip that took place Sept. 21 with a phone app.
When turned on the Fieldtrip app, created by Google, it runs in the background of a smartphone and emits alerts when cool things, from famous statues to cocktail lounges are nearby, based on the user’s preference settings. How do those cool things get listed in the app in the first place? Google taps local organizations and experts all over to contribute for their area. It just so happens, edgy arts and culture blog, ArtsVegas was tapped to lead the Fieldtrip charge in Las Vegas.
“Google provides the platform, we provide the content,” explains ArtsVegas writer Nate Serefine. Testing out the potential of the app Google has launched fieldtrip tours in other cities including London, New York and Portland.
One of three groups of 25, blue group assembles, marches out of Emergency Arts and out to the street to visit eleven iconic Vegas hotspots trying to guess our next destination based on a list of fun campy clues such as “this might have been a championship volleyball move,” for Goldspike or “Learn the history of sleeping with the fishes” for the Mob Museum.
Geared towards social media usage, the tour has a social media photo contest going on with the winning upload receiving a Polaroid Z2300 as the grand prize. At each stop, while Hardy is explaining “the federal government sold the former post office and federal building for a buck, so it could be restored,” or “Binion’s was the first casino to have carpeting,” everyone is busily snapping photos and uploading them to #VegasFieldTrip.
Soon the group enters the blinking sensory overload and strange character population of Fremont Street. We pass by a Hello Kitty and bizarre old guy with a revealing wedgie and pink wings offering free breast exams. About halfway down a fight breaks out between a “9/11 truther” and a group of rednecks. After that we encounter a costumed Native American drumming a slow beat accompanied by a live monkey. No official fieldtrip stops but plenty of photo-worthy highlights along the way.
Arriving at the Neonopolis we learn of its former life as a Woolsworth’s store; “Its neat to be able to hear about the history,” one field-tripper comments. Next we head down Las Vegas Boulevard partially interrupting a wedding at Wee Kirk O’ the Heather; the oldest continuously operating wedding chapel. The happy couple quickly warms up to the attention and smiles into the photos.
We continue down Bridger Avenue eyeing the classy gold and white Art-deco façade of Las Vegas High School turned Art Academy in 1993.
“I knew they moved it but I didn’t know they moved it downtown” says another field-tripper as we pause at the mid-century mod Morelli house. “It’s nice that it came downtown and didn’t go to the burgs or a museum.”
Our final stop is the recently restored Atomic Liquors, ending our fieldtrip with refreshing atomic era inspired cocktails. But the adventures don’t have to stop there.
“This was just proof of concept,” Hardy explains. “ArtsVegas is breaking out into more personal, curated art related tours.”
It feels like a natural shift in focus for a blog that has been committed to relating tales of art and culture off the beaten track in Las Vegas to begin guiding others to those places and adventures.
Of course, you can always go out adventuring on your own. With a name like Fieldtrip, the Google app recalls our youthful forays, visiting planetariums, zoos, wax museums and reminds us our fieldtripping days don’t have to be over; there are an abundance of adventures we might be missing out on right in our own backyard.
ArtsVegas link to pictures taken on the field trip: storify.com/artsvegas/vegasfieldtrip/
Fieldtrip App: itunes.apple.com/us/app/field-trip/id567841460?mt=8