Post-Pandemic: Public Murals will be Essential to Revitalizing Downtown Areas


[2020 SHINE Mural Analytics- foot traffic density surrounding murals in the SHINE gallery]

Mural galleries have the potential to restart local downtown economies and the data collected in July by the mural technology platform, PixelStix, proves it.

Public art and specifically murals have always played a role in revitalizing an area by creating awareness, interest, and foot traffic. This influx of interest sparks community appreciation and commerce. PixelStix hosted a mural tourism campaign in Saint Petersburg, FL in July of 2020 and recorded metrics surrounding the resulting interactions with the local murals. After analyzing the analytics, PixelStix is showing the world that murals can also play a significant role in any community’s post-pandemic downtown economic recovery plan.

The Success of the Drive-In Mural Theater and What it Means

[2020 SHINE Mural Analytics – 8000% increase in mural interactions after launching the Drive-In Mural Theater campaign]

In 2019, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance in St. Petersburg, FL transformed their collection of 80+ SHINE murals into an art gallery experience using the PixelStix technology. Doing so also gave them a new analytics perspective into their collection which they didn’t previously have, allowing them to measure the activity and impact that their murals have on the surrounding community. Building off of this work, in July of 2020, PixelStix and SHINE co-launched a campaign called the “Drive-In Mural Theater” to instruct art lovers in the Tampa Bay area how to enjoy a small subset of the gallery while doing so from their cars for the purpose of remaining socially distanced.

The response was unexpected:

  • 3102 virtual and physical mural interactions
  • 682 of those being physical mural interactions where the viewer was near the mural

As seen in the graphic above, at its peak the SHINE gallery enjoyed an 8000% increase of mural interactions from its baseline analytics. The “Verified Foot Traffic”, (the ability this campaign exhibited to bring people into targeted locations), is the most relevant indicator of the potential public murals have to revitalize downtown areas affected by the pandemic. Now that the mural gallery exists and analytics are available, it can be used to create targeted and specific “exhibits.” These exhibits serve both the public that enjoy this new type of outside art gallery and the local economies that host the murals that locals and tourists alike are visiting.

The Economics of Mural Galleries and Localized Revitalization

Traditionally, the value brought to local downtown economies by murals has been known only qualitatively, since there are limited ways to measure that value. Using IoT technology and analytics, PixelStix and SHINE have been able to create a model that brings valuable quantitative data into the picture. This is imperative for mural festivals, like SHINE, that work to curate a collection of freely available art and depend on local government and community donor support to continue serving their community.

[2020 SHINE Mural Analytics – mural popularity and foot traffic ratios]

PixelStix and SHINE have shown that adding a gallery experience to a mural collection can be used to bring activity to the physical locations of the murals. This allows campaigns involving a subset of murals to be created that focus on specific areas in a neighborhood or community. In a post-pandemic world where safety precautions are relaxed and people can safely return to patronizing restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, and bars, outdoor art experiences like the “Drive-In Mural Theater” give customers a valuable reason to visit areas of commerce.

How PixelStix Turned the Murals of Saint Petersburg into an Art Gallery

PixelStix uses the ObjectVoice platform to create IoT solutions that focus on the needs of the mural/street art world. Plaques with the PixelStix technology are installed on every mural in the gallery. Artists upload any web page, video, or other media to the plaque that describes their work or the piece using the PixelStix app. Mural tourists use the map feature within the same app to locate murals and either touch their phone to the plaque or use the app’s interface to view the content uploaded by the artists. The organizers of the SHINE mural festival in Saint Petersburg use the analytics from the plaque interactions to measure the engagement between community and their gallery.

How to Prepare for Revitalization using your Community’s Murals

  • Obtain digital content to put on your walls. This transforms your collection into an art gallery experience and gives your mural tourists a valuable reason to visit and re-visit the murals in your community. SHINE artfully produced descriptions of each piece in vivid language and had the descriptions professionally recorded. The ideal content is that which allows your audience to learn about the work and the artist. If the artist is available to produce their own content for each piece, it tends to have high appeal.
  • Contact PixelStix to order plaques for your murals. You can learn how to mount and assign content to them here. The mural analytics described in this article come for free with the plaques.
  • Create campaigns such as a “Drive-In Mural Theater” or a “Mural Scavenger Hunt” that focus on those murals in areas where economic revitalization is needed. The ObjectVoice Smart Cities platform is a great resource if you’d like to consider what a cultural gallery in your city might look like.

A Tool for Community Engagement and Safe Neighborhoods

Beyond just being a way to revitalize local economies, the same targeted campaigns and analytics mentioned above are being used to compare mural activity to various other data points in a city or neighborhood. For instance, the organizers of the Flint Public Art Project in Flint, MI are able to compare localized crime data with the results of mural campaigns to show the impact that murals have on reducing crime in their city.

“Adding murals and public art to public spaces has always had a positive impact on the communities that host them. Having the PixelStix data to now prove this correlation establishes murals as a fundamental contributor to the health of a community in a way that can be shared and discussed with local government as well as used to pursue grant funding. “
— Joe Schipani, executive director of the Flint Public Art Project

More about PixeStix can be found here. More about ObjectVoice Smart Cities can be found here.