Let's Talk About Art: Ringtones as art

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

"Locally Toned" is an original art project that uses airspace for sonic transmission, specifically, of ring tones. Keep in mind that sound is public property -- there for the taking.

It is the work of Pittsburgh-based artist, performer, arts advocate and educator T. Foley. Since 2009 she has invited the community to create its own ring tones that are then shared free on the website www.locallytoned.org.

As a nontraditional artist, Ms. Foley says, "I'm interested in getting out of the studio to collaborate with others and in sharing my work with the public -- outside gallery and museum settings."

This project, which is funded through grants, has taken her all over the Pittsburgh region to record an infinite variety of sounds.

Some are jovial -- a pinball machine, Fourth of July fireworks, the merry-go-round at Kennywood Park -- or they might be more ominous, like the sound of a prison whistle that goes off at 8:40 every night.

Many of the tones are musical bits that have personal meaning, while others have an association for whole generations, such as the opening notes from the PBS children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

"I make this sort of work because I think it's important for all of us to express our creativity and share it with others in interesting ways," she explains. "We need more ring tones that sound like bicycle bells and the laughter of little kids than we do music industry tones."

Ms. Foley is looking for more ideas for ring tones. To find out how to participate, contact her at locallytoned@gmail.com. "It basically takes a whole village to make a community-based artwork," she says.

Ms. Foley is a participating artist in the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial exhibit "Gertrude's Lot," on view at The Andy Warhol Museum.


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