NEC’s Art and Design Students Join Augmented Reality Exhibition - New England College
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NEC’s Art and Design Students Join Augmented Reality Exhibition

Augmented Reality exhibition artwork

Imagine being able to explore in 3D the work of Institute of Art and Design at New England College artists from the convenience of an app and in the comfort of your own home. It may sound impossible, but it has become reality—augmented reality—through the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts (NHBCA).

Augmented reality (AR) is the layering of digital content onto the real world in real time. NHBCA began using this technology two years ago as a new way to exhibit the work of artists around New Hampshire through the AR+art app on a smartphone or tablet, giving New Hampshire art a virtual presence anywhere.

For their newest exhibit, NHBCA has partnered with the Institute of Art and Design (IAD) at New England College (NEC) to showcase the works of IAD faculty and students.

The collaborative exhibit between IAD and NHBCA, entitled New Frontiers in Art, “explores the intrinsic value of the arts in communicating our most basic human experiences and innovative ideas,” explains Tricia Soule, Executive Director at NHBCA. The artwork chosen for this exhibit often speaks to how the world is changing—socially, environmentally, geopolitically, and technologically.

The exhibit features work from 11 of IAD’s BFA and MFA students and Lars Jerlach, Associate Professor and Program Director, MFA in Visual Art. Each piece of art was photographed and submitted to the app’s developers for rendering into AR.

“We’re doing phenomenal work throughout all our art and design programs, and we see this exhibit as the perfect opportunity to promote the work our students are doing,” stated Jerlach, who handpicked most of the pieces to include. Most of the pieces are 3D, he explained, because that medium naturally works well in AR, but he also chose some painting and photography pieces for the exhibit.

Jerlach added that even though AR has been around for a while, it is still relatively new to the public. “With this exhibit, you can now invite others anywhere in the world to open the app and be in the same exhibit space with you at the same time. It’s remarkable.”

NHBCA’s foray into AR exhibits began as site-specific experiences. Its first exhibit partnered with the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen to display inside the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport artwork from the League’s permanent collection.

“In response to the pandemic and its travel limitations,” commented Soule, “we sought to create a way for people to still enjoy art, even from home.”

The AR+art app was developed by Membit, AR specialists as well as studio-trained artists. The app allows people to engage with art without having to go to an exhibit space. This means that NHBCA’s AR exhibits are not limited by time, space, location, or means. “You can be in your home in New Hampshire, and I can be in another part of the country. Yet, we can each use the AR+art app to see and engage with the same art at the same time,” Soule explained. “AR exhibits are a way to democratize art.”

Once an exhibit is created, it lives in the AR+art app indefinitely, which allows anyone to access the NEC exhibit, as well as NHBCA’s other exhibits, at any time. New Frontiers in Art establishes a living portfolio for NEC’s participating art and design students, Soule noted, which gives them an invaluable tool for showcasing their work when applying for jobs or looking to do commissioned projects.

“As the world changes, we see AR as the future of how people will interact with art,” Soule stated.

Indeed, augmented reality brings people together over art in a new way for this new world.

NEC’s exhibit New Frontiers in Art is live in the free AR+art app. Find the app in the Apple App Store or Google Play by searching for NHBCA.

Learn more about the NHBCA at nhbca.com and view all the AR exhibits by clicking on the Augmented Reality Art tab.

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Image credit: Sabrina Brisson, Toothy