With a download of an app, a simple walk around South Main Village in Fort Worth become a scavenger hunt of the neighborhood’s artistic treasures. This summer, Amphibian Stage launched Neighborhood Leap, an app-based reality art walk, an experience that helps art lovers rediscover a neighborhood they thought they knew.
At the height of the pandemic, Amphibian Stage produced some outdoor entertainment. By 2021, the theater company could see the pandemic’s ongoing impact on the community and wanted to try something different. A similar project in England inspired the creation of Neighborhood Leap
“We wanted to do something to help and felt like a really good fit,” said Kathleen Culebro, Amphibian Stage Founder and Artistic Director. “We wanted to find a different way to gather outside.”
The project highlights existing public art by Benito Huerta, Jay Wilkinson, Kristin Sobel, Sarah Ayala and others. Neighborhood Leap merges these existing works with newly commissioned works of music, visual art, movement and storytelling by local artists such as Martha Peters, Allison Rogers, Daniel Banks, Lou Charle$, Armond Vance, Grady Spencer and the students the Fort Worth school, I.M. Terrell Academy for Stem & VPA. Combing the newly commissioned art with the existing art creates an immersive experience.
Made possible through a partnership with Blue Zones Project Forth Worth, Neighborhood Leap leads visitors along a variety of art stops across the neighborhood, drawing attention to the unique, independently owned boutiques and restaurants in South Main Village.
“When we saw this happen, we thought what a great way to get people into the neighborhood to experience the art that is already there, but to also add our own touch to it as well as get people aware of businesses that are here, that are such an important part of our community,” Culebro said.
When the theater reviewed applications, they wanted to find artists willing to work outside their comfort zone. Some of the new works explore the neighborhood’s history and feature the stories of the people of South Main Village.
“We selected the ones that really fit the medium, that were thinking out of the box, were thinking three dimensionally and were trying to very aware of the neighborhood and the location that they were placed in,” Culebro said. “If you tell artists to play, they will play.”
The app was created in collaboration with The Cultural Assembly and additional partnerships with Near Southside Arts and Texas Commission on the Arts. Creating the augmented reality experience required the theater company to work outside of its comfort zone.
“It’s not easy and there’s a lot of different ways to approach placing these artworks in the right location. And translating the language of art to the language of what we need, and this is what you need to code and this where it needs to show up, all of those little details was a really big learning curve,” Culebro said.
Within a 30-minute walk, art lovers will discover more than 20 works of art. Since the project launched, new murals have appeared.
“Our only regret is that we can’t include every single mural that’s in the South Main and we can’t put art on every single wall because there is a limit to what we have the ability to do, but boy, we would love to keep expanding it, continue to adapt it as architecture changes, as the landscape changes, as artwork changes,” Culebro said. “There potential is endless.”
Neighborhood Leap inspires people to appreciate their surroundings in a new way.
“This is just opening that new window and really encouraging us to be present,” Culebro said.
Culebro hopes the community will take an active interest in Neighborhood Leap and expand it beyond her imagination and South Main Village.
“I want to keep my mind open to ideas from the community,” Culebro said. “I would love to hear how they would like to transform it and make it their own. I would love to see projects like this pop up all over the city.”
Learn more: Amphibian Stage's Neighborhood Leap