"Artwork is supposed to be not only conversational and have
dialogue and narrative around it, but we also want our artwork
literally to be alive so that our students can engage with it in
different ways," Kemler said. "We want them to see how
others are responding to the artwork, and we also want them to create
their own responses to it."
Anita Gilleo, granddaughter of painter Mathias Alten provided key
support for the project, Kemler said. Gilleo wanted GVSU experts to
find a way to animate a sculpture of her grandfather planned for
downtown Grand Rapids and agreed to fund the pilot augmented reality project.
Kemler said Julie Goldstein, assistant professor of film and
production, provided crucial expertise and work on the pilot project.
He asked her to work with 10 Alten paintings to provide an augmented
experience that served as an extension of the painting.
Goldstein said it was an exciting opportunity to work with this
still-evolving technology that would be used in a gallery setting. She
said her goal with Alten's work, which she said has such an inherent
serenity, was to create an animated counterpoint to the painting that
attracted deeper attention without distracting from a piece's overall feel.
"The goal was to try to create a bridge, a surprise experience
to get a student to view the painting a little closer," Goldstein said.
A long history of app development through close collaboration
GVSU's strong partnership with the Padnos College of Engineering and
Computing and the work of more than 50 students through the years have
allowed Grand Valley to develop the app's technology while providing
crucial experiential learning opportunities for the students, Kemler said.
A key partner in developing and refining the app through the years
has been Jonathan Engelsma, director of GVSU's Applied Computing
Institute. Engelsma said this work on the app presented a beneficial
multidisciplinary opportunity for students.
"As a computer science professor, this opportunity for the
students to work on building an app like this in an area where a lot
of them might not have a lot of exposure is valuable," Engelsma
said. "More importantly, this was an opportunity for our students
to apply their skills and the expertise they're developing on a
real-world project such as this."
Engelsma has also worked closely with Kemler on the AR technology.
“The way we implemented the technology is generalized, so in the
future any work of art can be augmented digitally and added to the
experience," Engelsma said. "That's exciting, because now
it's more than just a feature in the app – it's a technological
enabler that could be used in a variety of ways."