It's the only tour guide you can turn on and off, regulate the volume of, and then store in your back pocket.
"Artwalks," the brainchild of one enterprising student and her mother, provides listeners with tours of several architectural monuments of Europe on audio cassettes that play on a Walkman.
Nina H. Markow '87-'88 and her mother devised the tapes to provide English-speaking tourists with in-depth, well-researched commentary on the sculpture, architecture, and painting of some well-known European churches and monuments.
Unlike guide books, "Artwalks" allows tourists to view the sights without having to raise and lower their heads, Markow said. The cassettes also allow the tourist to advance at his own pace. "You can turn off the tape and stop in the middle if there's something you wnat to investigate," Markow said.
The main selling point of "Artwalks", though, is the depth of the information given. "Guide books tend to be relatively superficial in terms of art historical content. They won't tell anything about iconography, or architectural methods, or artistic or sculptural style," Markow said.
The Mather resident and her mother, Deborah, decided to create the tapes after Deborah Markow, a Ph.D. art historian teaching at New York University, made a tape for a friend whowas visiting Paris. The friend gave the tape backto Nina Markow and she listened to it.
"The tape was spectacular. I thought it wassomething that should be marketed," Markow said."I've taken classes in art history and I stillthought it was interesting."
So, she and her mother started to investigate away of selling the tapes through distributers.Eventually, the two entrepreneurs decided toestablish their own business because they wantedto have some control over the tapes.
"We wanted to be able to decide about the tenorof the tapes, and what would be included," Markowsaid. "We were not going for the lowest commondenominator. Our tapes are for intelligentpeople."
"The tapes have been researched verythoroughly, and a lot of work goes into each one.Also, the people who write the text of the tapesare people who have been teaching the material along time, so they know what's interesting tostudents," she said.
Art historians write the text for each of thetapes, and Markow's mother narrates them."Artwalks" currently includes three tapes whichcost $14.95 each: Notre Dame Paris/Chartres; St.Peter's/The Sistine Chapel; and FlorenceDuomo/Baptistry/Campanile. Markow said that theyare planning to do more tapes, with a goal ofseven titles by next year, including some sites inEngland and possibly America.
The tapes are available by mail order, and theMarkows will also try to market them throughtravel agents, who will send out brochures for thetapes along with plane tickets. The tapes come ina package along with a map which indicates wherethe visitor should stand when listening to thecassette