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Akron Art Museum Launches Augmented Reality Experience

The Akron Art Museum in Ohio, USA, has announced that it intends to bring interactivity and a unique art experience to the homes of the public while it is closed. The museum, like many in the United States, is currently shut to physical visitors as part of a public health response. However, with the launch of Interplay: Art Play for All, the museum hopes to engage the public thanks to an immersive augmented reality (AR) artistic offering.

The idea is that freely available posters, which will be distributed by the art gallery and several partner organisations, will offer members of the public an interactive set of options. All that is needed for these promotional works of art to function is for a QR code to be scanned into a smart device, such as a tablet. The idea of the art project was dreamt up before the coronavirus pandemic to display large posters in many public spaces across the city but it seems even more forward-thinking in the current, socially distanced climate.

Poster Art

The first poster for Interplay: Art Play for All was created by Adana Tillman. Born in Akron, Tillman’s artistic style can be seen in the poster. That said, anyone who scans the artwork into their phone will be able to transform the elements that make up her original design. The idea, according to the gallery’s creative team, is that the AR technology used for the project will enable users to blend their creativity with Tillman’s and to show it off within the wider community.

According to the Akron Art Museum, the project will provide the community in the city, which has a population of just under 200,000 inhabitants, with a much needed playful AR experience that places and emphasis on fun. As well as being able to make their own on-screen art from the AR poster that Tillman has produced, users will have the opportunity of receiving a print to hang in their own homes if they wish. According to Tillman, the whole project can be viewed as something of a love letter to Akron’s citizens. This is why much of her artwork for the poster includes imagery from the city that locals will immediately recognise although, such local sights feature with the artist’s perspective very much on show.

Combining Art and Technology

Seema Rao, the gallery’s Deputy Director and Chief Experience Officer, said that she was excited to bring something new to the city that people could access from home. This was especially the case, she added, because the current healthcare crisis has meant people have had to be inside their residences for so long. Rao also said that she thought the project would assist with building a wider understanding of the artistic process of creating visual imagery. The Deputy Director also commented that she thought Akron’s inhabitants would learn more about the city they live in because of the project. “This was a great way for us… [to blend] technology and art,” she said.

A Collaborative Effort

According to Reggie Lynch, the museum’s Curator of Community Engagement, forging new partnerships with other organisations have been behind the collaborative effort that has brought the AR project about. Specifically, the project has been enabled largely because of the funding the museum was able to obtain from the Knight Foundation, a non-profit arts and educational foundation with headquarters in Miami. In addition, this project will involve the gallery making new connections within the local business community of Akron.

The Akron Art Museum has begun distributing over 4,000 free art posters to patrons and this will continue over the course of January. Many of these posters will be distributed by local partners involved in the project, thereby strengthening ties between the gallery and the business community just as much as among the general public, it is hoped. Nevertheless, the main purpose of the AR project is to provide something uplifting. According to Rao, offering this gift freely to the community in Akron has been very rewarding, especially in what has been a challenging year for many.

Interested in how museums can use Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and mixed Reality? You might be interested in the MuseumNext XR Summit

About the author – Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.

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