ABO Blog | Gotta Catch ‘Em All! Pokémon Go and the Arts

Has your art facility been infiltrated by Pokémon? Or, more specifically, have you noticed a major influx of people wandering around, noses to their smartphones? These are Pokémon Masters, and they will stop at nothing to catch ’em all. This hunt for animated creatures has sparked a movement – a literal movement, that is, as users are required to walk to ‘Pokéstops’ – geographic locations where they can power up and collect items. Despite the game not even being officially released in Canada, businesses and arts organizations alike have seen major spikes in pedestrian traffic as Pokémon Go gains traction.

But what is Pokémon Go, and why do our arts organizations seem to be at the center of the craziness?

pokemon confused psyduck

Pokémon Go combines geocaching and virtual reality to allow users to hunt for Pokémon in real-life environments like a park, restaurant or museum. For the lucky locations that have been unknowingly designated ‘Pokéstops,’ this has resulted in huge spikes in attendance for some creative spaces. To determine the location of these stops, game creators used points of interest— often pieces of public art, monuments, museums and churches. Other locations for Pokéstops and gyms (places where players congregate to ‘battle’ each other) were determined by finding spots that were frequently geo-tagged in photos posted online – so having a strong social media presence and an Instagram-friendly venue may have contributed to your newfound digital wildlife.

CnLWn6aWIAA4f6sSo Pokémon may have gotten visitors in your door.. but how do arts organizations ‘catch’ this elusive audience? 

Cultural institutions are flocking to Twitter to advertise the rare monsters within their walls and hoping this viral sensation will lend itself to returning visitors. The developers behind the game have already announced plans for sponsored Pokéstops for organizations that want to pay for a place in the virtual world.  The real value comes with the foot traffic – the actual people that are walking through the door, albeit with their attention elsewhere. The trick for arts organizations is to engage these visitors while they hunt for a Pikachu – perhaps they spot a poster for an upcoming play that sparks their interest or look up to check out some contemporary art.

And don’t discount the impact of a personal connection – creative organizations are capitalizing on the craziness by offering opportunities to Pokébattle with staff members and hosting ‘Lure’ parties – a chance for players to congregate and drop digital treats that attract Pokémon. Coffee shops and businesses are offering to buy and drop these ‘lures’ for every 15 paying customers and spaces are, of course, advertising their free Wi-Fi. In a far-away example, players organized a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia which attracted more than 1000 players and inspired the hashtag #PokeGoWalk. MuseumHack suggests organizations can harness the power of these crowds by officially hosting the events – encourage visitors to tag them on social media, download their own app, and even distribute passes for a future visit.

What can augmented reality do for our creative organizations?

While Pokémon is a fun, viral sensation, it is in the end just that – a viral sensation. What does have lasting power, however, is the shift toward augmented reality in our cultural institutions. Pokémon Go is evidence that virtual, interactive experiences have the power to lure visitors – imagine the possibilities for guided audio tours or interactive intermissions. Pokémon Go demonstrates the power of virtual reality and how it can change how we experience the world around us. The interactive portion of the VR game inspires users to explore the cities around them – as John Hanke, VP of Niantic Labs, told the Guardian in 2014, he “wanted people to look around with fresh perspective on the places they passed by every day, looking for the unusual, the little hidden flourish or nugget of history.” The real success of the Pokémon Go phenomenon has been in the community it fosters and the interactive experience it offers, and the golden ticket for arts and culture institutions is that one day, these virtual reality visitors may not be after digital monsters.

ABO Blog | Art meets Digital in Kitchener-Waterloo


ArtsBuild had the opportunity to tour digital spaces in our own backyard at Orchestra’s Canada and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Digital Day. We traveled with 20 orchestras and professional musicians to some of Kitchener-Waterloo’s core tech companies including CommunitechAccelerator Centre and Google with the intention of immersing ourselves in the digital world.

Admittedly, the office culture of the tech industry (and the industry as a whole!) may have been unfamiliar ground for most arts administrators. But the work culture at these companies was really inspiring to see. These workplaces are buzzing with creativity and we were surrounded by tech creators undoubtedly working on some big project set to hit the digital market soon.

But why would a group of orchestras choose to spend a day learning about the world of tech? The answer is simple: learning about other sectors sparks new ideas.

Museums are taking a lead on virtual realities and image mapping. Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail published the article “The role of virtual reality and technology in the future of museums” which argues how museums are well positioned to take on the role of tech pioneers. The Canada Science and Technology Museum is testing the waters with a virtual reality (VR) headset that creates a simulation of 1936 CN 6400 steam locomotive. Visitors are essentially “going back in time” to experience culture. Plus, VR provides a creative interim solution to for the Canada Science and Technology Museum to connect with audiences while the museum remains closed for renovations.

CAVE_CrayolandThe Canadian War Museum is also embracing digital and are currently developing a Vimy Ridge virtual-experience to commemorate the centenarian year of the battle. The ROM in Toronto features augmented reality in their Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit, which superimposes a digital dinosaur over ancient fossils.

But integrating technology into these cultural institutions doesn’t detract from their traditional role as purveyors of the past. Digital realities are helping to educate audiences and make the content more accessible. Mark Keating, chief information officer at the ROM, interestingly points out in the article that the integration of digital experiences renders audience attendance as an outdated measure of success for museums. VR can be accessed anywhere– location and getting people in the door isn’t necessarily relevant for audiences to experience an emotional connection with the content.

So what does this mean?

Museums are using technology to compliment traditional exhibitions and educational programs. Those who have embraced the digital are breaking the mold of cultural presentation. They are inviting new audiences to experience their offerings, while maintaining a physical presence in their communities. But what is perhaps most important to take away from these examples is that digital immersion is not just a supplement to museum programming – it’s the future. The worlds of technology and the arts are coming closer together and the results are going to be extraordinary.


ArtsBuild receives OTF Grow Grant!

OTFVERTcolourWe are very excited to announce that ArtsBuild has received an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grow Grant! This grant will allow ArtsBuild to continue to offer three key programs that assist our artistic leaders in the area of facility management.

Funding from the OTF Grow Grant, will support the continuation of the Arts Facilities Mentoring Network, Asset Planner for the Arts and the expansion of SpaceFinder in more Ontario communities. All three programs will be accompanied by a Learning Series to further support our organizations.

Arts Facilities Mentoring Network
ArtsBuild is excited to again partner with WorkInCulture for the third iteration of the Arts Facilities Mentoring Network. This iteration offers arts organizations engaged in capital related issues/projects one on one support from experienced professionals. Over the course of a year, mentors and mentorees will participate in multiple in-person learning opportunities including workshops, webinars and check-ins, in addition to their one on one meetings. More details on this program will be released tomorrow on May 17!

Asset Planner for the Arts
Asset Planner for the Arts enables organizations take a proactive approach to managing your facility. It is an online program that captures facility assets in a cloud-based software, allowing organizations to access real time data, provide capital forecasts and up to date reports on the condition of the facility. This easy to use program helps arts organizations plan ahead for building repairs and upgrades. Through the OTF Grow Grant,  ArtsBuild will be able to provide a subsidy for this two year software, to make it more affordable for our arts organizations.

ArtsBuild is pleased to partner with Ameresco and WalterFedy on this program. More details on this program will be released on June 7!

SpaceFinder expansion in Ontario
Following the success of SpaceFinder Toronto and SpaceFinder Hamilton, ArtsBuild will be expanding the tool to Waterloo Region and three additional communities in the province. This incredible online tool allows artists to search for creatives spaces, while venues and spaces can market their spaces to new and potential users! Check out www.spacefindertoronto.org! More information to be released on May 31!

The Learning Series
The OTF Grow Grant will provide additional support through ArtsBuild’s inaugural Learning Series designed to complement these three core programs. The series includes in-person workshops, webinars and other resources to assist our arts organizations in leveraging ArtsBuild’s programs and maintaining more sustainable facilities.

We look forward to sharing more information about all of these programs in our newsletters and eBlasts in the coming weeks!

If you are interested in knowing more about any of our programs, please email Alex Glass, Program Manager at alex@artsbuildontario.ca.


After two years and ten communities, ArtsBuild has wrapped up our province-wide LEARN IT | BUILD IT | MANAGE IT workshop series, finishing in Pickering last month! The workshops were a huge success, with 234 participating arts administrators who learned more about building, financing, managing and engaging their community with their creative spaces. Participants came from different sectors across the non-profit landscape in Ontario, including social services, sacred spaces and community services.

What participants had to say about the workshop:

  • “Amazing ground work for starting this journey. Each element was very helpful, especially the Community Engagement.”
  • “Many lessons learned here, great session on Alternative Financing!”
  • “The most important aspect is going into a major project armed with new knowledge.”
  • “I will use the knowledge gained from this workshop to build critical relationships and ultimately take ‘ownership’ of the project.”
Pictures of 10 comms


Every workshop produced new ideas and fresh collaborations for the organizations who attended the two day session. Thanks to all our community hosts and participants who joined us for the workshop! This workshop series acknowledged organizations province-wide needing additional expertise and knowledge especially during special projects such as renovations, new builds and capital campaigns. The interest in the workshop series demonstrated the need for ongoing professional development in the area of facilities for our arts organizations.

One year of SpaceFinder Toronto!


It has already been one year since the launch of SpaceFinder Toronto and we are thrilled to see Toronto’s creative sector benefiting from this valuable tool. To celebrate SpaceFinder Toronto’s one year anniversary, we thought we would share the site’s exciting progress over the past year.

SpaceFinder Toronto has generated over $24,000+ in rental referrals for venues using the online booking request form!
That means the 32 venues who have adopted the online booking request form have collectively received over $24,000+ in rental requests.

More venues are taking advantage of booking features:

SpaceFinder Toronto currently has 427 spaces listed! Here is how many spaces we have listed in each arts discipline:

  • 270 Dance spaces
  • 283 Music spaces
  • 308 Theatre spaces
  • 264 Film spaces
  • 227 Visual Arts spaces

Other neat facts about SpaceFinder Toronto users:

  • Over the last year, SpaceFinder Toronto had 170, 000 pageviews
  • The site has been visited by 15,663 users
  • Users spend an average of 5 minutes on SpaceFinder Toronto

Thank you for making SpaceFinder Toronto’s first year so great – we look forward to many more years working with you!