NetPark is the World’s first Digital Art Park and a new, permanent visitor attraction for Southend on Sea.
As a collaboration between Metal, Calvium and the University of Brighton, the project aimed to create experiential layers of culture in an already well-loved public space, Chalkwell Park. The park was fitted with wifi, giving areas of the park access to the internet during business hours, making visitors more aware of Metal’s presence there, and inviting people to see the park differently.
The park itself has a history of cultural engagement, being the home of Metal’s Southend on Sea centre since 2007, who host the annual Village Green music festival there. Metal were keen to find ways to engage visitors to the park, not only for access to free wifi, but to add invisible layers of experience to the space, available for anyone interested in a different perspective of the park.
Metal commissioned five digital artworks and five located stories, which responded to the physical space, whilst remaining unseen to other visitors, as they were delivered through a series of apps.
As the first project of its kind, we anticipated finding hurdles to overcome at many points along the path, particularly as the project involved several organisations and local council bodies. However, using an open and collaborative approach, learning was shared across teams throughout the process, which became a growing toolkit of knowledge. This NetPark Toolkit would serve as a template that could be used by future designers of digital art parks, to develop the ideas in other locations.
How Calvium Helped
As the technical partner, Calvium consulted on the meeting between physical and digital spaces, delivery of the proposed experiences and supporting the Metal team through the process of commissioning digital artworks.
During the production stages of the project, we delivered a series of experience design workshops to the artists involved, and providing tools to establish what areas of the park would be most suitable for GPS-triggered experiences. From here, we offered support to realise the artists visions using our DIY app-making platform.
Calvium are a talented and responsive group of people who remain accessible and excited about creative technology.
Results & ROI
The project was funded by Nesta’s Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, which helps participants to document their insights throughout the process, culminating in a Project Report contributed to by all organisations. The toolkit would serve as a template, that future designers of NetParks could use, to develop the ideas in other locations. There’s hopes that Netpark will cotinue to be a tourist attraction to the area, as well as inspiration to other outside spaces to do the same.
We do want this to continue. We hope other arts organisations will establish digital arts parks, and we will be here to help with any advice.