Local artists bring Calgary’s first augmented reality mural to life
Calgary’s first augmented reality public mural launched in Crescent Heights on Saturday.
Located at 8 Avenue N.E. and Centre Street N. on the south wall of Ducktoes Computer Services, the mural — called “Won’t You Be My Neighbour!” — was produced by the Crescent Heights Community Association (CHCA) and local artists Kathryn Pearce and Tanner Hamilton of Buds of Buds Collective.
The artists — and married couple — were selected by jury, consisting of a Crescent Heights artist, business owner, CHCA board member and the property owner.
A magical place
Hamilton said the mural, which took two months to finish, adds colour to the community.
“The houses represent the people in the community, like it’s their homes, like they could imagine themselves here in this little magical space, a magical place,” he said.
“Give people the possibility to imagine what their community could be like.”
Augmented reality brings the art to another level. It adds graphics, sounds, touch and feedback into what we already see in front of us, through a device like an app on your phone. AR uses an existing display and overlays virtual information on top of it. Anyone with a smartphone can participate using the Augle app.
“It’s a new technology — we’re experimenting, exploring. There’s ups and downs with it, for sure, but we’re excited,” Hamilton said. “It engages people quite a bit.”
“The technology is there for us to play with and I think that’s what artists do. It’s becoming more affordable and more accessible, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Hamilton and Pearce designed the mural to feature a kite flying, rain and snow, and a rainbow.
“I think just to take away a little bit of imagination and curiosity and bring you back to being a bit like a kid again,” Hamilton said, referring to plans for the installation. “Stop you in your everyday walk out of the downtown core.”
Pearce said the augmented reality experience is about storytelling.
“Adding elements to the mural that aren’t present and adding them in motion and with music — it creates this feeling,” she said. “It allows you to see more than what’s there.”
“We have and we live very animated lives and the animation components in the mural are about that.”
She said the painting was done in a childlike way — with good reason.
“It’s about that idea of remembering childhood and these playful ideas and being excited by kites and rainbows and things like that,” Pearce said.
“[I hope people] take some inspiration from how colourful and playful it is and take home this idea that they can add colour and vibrancy, and imagine something different for their community.”
Improving the divide
Chandra Thomas, board secretary of Crescent Heights Community Association, said the project was under development a year ago in effort to make the area more liveable.
“Centre Street is a literal and figurative divide in our community,” Thomas said. “We have this big thoroughfare that runs to the middle of our community and the infrastructure has become in disrepair over a number of years. With the Green Line [LRT project] coming and the potential of improvement, we really decided to focus on it as being something we want to work on to improve in our community.”
Thomas said funding was through Park Plus revenue. The art produced by it speaks to her goal.
“We want to get to know our neighbours and make this a vibrant part of our community,” Thomas said.
“Instead of being a negative, unattractive street, we can make things like this happen at low cost.”
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