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Mississauga puts its arts scene on the map

The City of Mississauga, located in the shadow cast by cultural giant and next-door neighbour Toronto, recently decided to put its own arts and culture on the map – literally.

Online mapping, made easier with the help of engines like Google Maps, is an increasingly popular way for cities to reach citizens about services, alert them to construction or traffic, or even tune them in to the artistic beat of their own communities.

As a hub for all things cultural, Mississauga's Culture on the Map guides residents and visitors to local artists and art collectives, faith groups, heritage properties and other cultural assets.

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"I'm hoping ultimately it draws significant attention to the city as a cultural centre," said Margo Sheppard-Hébert, the executive director of Visual Arts Mississauga, a group that works to promote art through exhibitions, classes and school programs.

She said people might overlook Canada's sixth most populous city given its close proximity to Toronto. "There is really a very vibrant arts community in Mississauga."

With 65 per cent of Canadians going online for information from their governments, according to a 2010 Statistics Canada Internet use survey, many cities are tinkering with web-based maps as a method to deliver information to their citizens.

Toronto has a new street map, T.O. INview, designed to tip commuters to the best routes around the city. It shows vehicle volume and alerts drivers to road construction and closures that can gum up traffic and prolong commuting time. Another new map lists musical tastes by transit stop. Vancouver has a number of unique maps that point people to things like drinking fountains, street vendors, public toilets and even charging stations for electric vehicles. In Montreal, an online map shows the nearest skate parks.

John Ariyo, the project manager for Culture on the Map, said the idea for the Mississauga map came out of calls for a better way to find out what's going on around the city.

"One of the major challenges we have in Mississauga is we don't have anywhere to find cultural information and resources," he said.

One option was to make a simple listing, but Mr. Ariyo said a map offered an intuitive online way to visualize what's happening and where.

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But interactive maps can be counter-intuitive or require finicky plug-ins and downloads, making them cumbersome or even unusable for some Internet users. Take the three other Canadian attempts at mapping culture, for instance.

The Winnipeg Cultural Map is a stylish crack at mapping, but it's not intuitive; it's zoom function doesn't always work and it's not designed to provide travel directions. Brampton's Arts & Culture Map is easy-to-use, but it will require some users to update a plug-in before they can load it; that may be the point where users click their back buttons. Lastly, the Regina Culture Map doesn't like popup blockers, and if you're one of the many users who don't suffer popups gladly, you may end up in the company of the Bramptonians who abandoned their search.

Mississauga's Culture on the Map, which was designed to run on all platforms and mobile devices, is the kind of offering that is likely to garner return visits. Map users can search by keyword, category or neighbourhood, and when they find something they like, they can view photos, plot travel directions, or even click a link to an artist's content on iTunes.

"We haven't seen (all of) that in any other project," said Mr. Ariyo. "This is unique…We've gone beyond just mapping."

So, too, has Meagan Perry, the creative mind behind The Stationary Groove, a map that plots tunes passengers have been playing at subway stops across the TTC system.

"I was so curious about what people were listening to," said Ms. Perry, who makes a living building podcasts. "You go on the subway and occasionally you hear a beat from somebody's headphones if they have them up really loudly."

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Ms. Perry started to quell her curiosity by asking commuters what they were playing.

Some people were shocked, said Ms. Perry, laughing: "Like, 'Why did you come up to me right now, this is terrible. I'm listening to children's music.' "

When she began mapping their responses by location, she found that some stops had unique musical personalities: Russian music at Victoria Park, Christian rock at Woodbine, and a taste of bluegrass at North York Centre.

Davisville had reggae; pop hits dominated Old Mill; and rock took Museum.

Rap and R&B was popular across the system, but according to Ms. Perry, there was one clear artist of choice on the TTC.

"Drake ruled the subway," she said.

The Stationary Groove map, which was featured earlier this week by Torontoist, creates a unique playlist for each TTC station that can be downloaded on iTunes.

Here's a sample of some of the music selections that appeared at stops around the system:

TTC Tunes

Bloor-Yonge Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

Eglinton Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee

St. Clair Christy Moore – Black Is the Color

Sheppard-Yonge Jay-Z – Off That (feat. Drake)

St. George Kailash Kher – Saiyyan

Chester Savage Garden – To The Moon & Back

Union M.I.A. – Internet Connection

Finch Queen – A Kind of Magic

Kennedy Drake – Shot for Me

Dundas The National – Squalor Victoria

Spadina The Notorious B.I.G. – Big Poppa

Dupont Radiohead – Jigsaw Falling Into Place

– Matthew Robinson

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