Before he became a famous New York Times/CBS/Yahoo/PBS technology expert, David Pogue was a musical theater geek. Fun facts: His Yale degree is in music, and he spent his early year conducting and arranging Broadway musicals.
So it didn’t take Einstein to enlist Pogue — a Westport resident — as moderator of this Sunday’s TEA (Thinkers, Educators, Artists) Talk (October 21, 2 p.m., Town Hall).
Nor was it a quantum leap to design a theme (“The Arts Go Viral!”) or find speakers like Jerry Goehring, (producer of the off-Broadway musical “Be More Chill,” which became a hit on viral media), and pianist/arts educator/ Westporter Frederic Chiu to dive into the pros and cons of how technology affects art (and vice versa).
But it is a stroke of genius that Sunday marks the official launch of Otocast. It’s a mobile tour app that lets any Westporter or visitor explore our town’s long arts, cultural and historic sites.
Otocast — available free for iPhones or Androids — includes audio, photos and info on a wide range of interesting sites. Location-based, it shows users whatever is closest to where they are.
Three separate “guides” are already live.
“Downtown Westport” offers details on Town Hall, Veterans Green, the Tunnel Vision arts installation, Westport Historical Society, Main Street, Saugatuck River, Jesup Green, the library, Levitt Pavilion, Westport Woman’s Club, Westport Country Playhouse and more.
“Our Creative Community” provides information on theater, film, non-profit organizations, schools and many other groups.
“From Saugatuck to Riverside” covers Westport’s original center, all the way to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.
The app blends audio commentary (from well-known voices like 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, natives like Sam Gault and others) with maps, photos and artwork.
It draws extensively on Westport Public Art Collections. Users learn, for example, of Howard Munce’s Remarkable Book Shop painting, and one of the old Westlake restaurant. They hear about — and see — art at Town Hall, Fire Department headquarters, the Parks & Recreation office, and of course Westport schools.
They learn about the history of the Doughboy statue on Veterans Green, and the nearby Honor Roll — a painting of which hangs in 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s office.
They also watch a video of Sally’s Place — the beloved record shop — and see changing views of Main Street. They listen to Charles Reid talk about Famous Artists School.
Two more Otocast guides are in the works: one on Westport’s Natural Beauty (Compo Beach, mini-parks, Earthplace, the Saugatuck River, with compelling artwork from the 1930s through now), and one focused exclusively on the WESTPac collection.
Otocast is the perfect app for residents and visitors to tour Westport. Of course, you can also download it and enjoy it in the comfort of your home.
It’s great too for former Westporters, relatives who live elsewhere, and anyone anywhere in the world who wants to visit us virtually.
In other words, Otocast is a superb mix of art and technology. Just like Sunday’s TEA Talk.
(For more information on the TEA Talk, click here. To download the app, search for Otocast on the App Store or Google Play.)