I love to find little gems around El Paso. Those unique things that not too many people may know exist. I found just such a gem at this year’s Chalk the Block.
There was this one tent with art all over the place. At first, I thought it was just a vendor trying to sale some amazing pictures. Then I began to see people with iPads aimed at the pictures. My first thought was that they were taking pictures of the pieces they liked best. Then, I saw the art virtually come to life!
Think Harry Potter. Any Harry Potter movie where the paintings come to life. It’s almost like that. This art does things once a tablet or phone is aimed at it.
Augment El Paso is the work of David Figueroa, Robert Castaneda, and Romelia Adams, among others. What they have done is taken both existing, and newer pieces of art from around town and brought it to life, making them interactive.
Before meeting with the team at Augment El Paso, I asked people, what were some of the more interesting things to do in El Paso. So, I sent the question out on one of my social media apps.
“There is not much to do,” sighs Maybelle. “There is nothing in El Paso.”
Tina echoed Maybelle’s claim, “Nothing to do. I like art, and that’s even hard to find.”
Claudia said Scenic Drive is the most interesting place in El Paso. “I like the view,” she says. “Downtown,” said Brianna.
Everyone had a different answer, but no one mentioned Augment El Paso or any of the public art that dots the town. I want to change that.
So, what is Augment El Paso?
The idea behind Augment El Paso started in 2013. “We noticed,” says David, “in the El Paso art scene that there wasn’t an avenue for digital artwork.”
Both David Figueroa and Robert Castaneda were working on 3D model’s, animation and digital painting. They wanted to open a way for artists, such as themselves to have a public platform for their work.
“You run it [the app],” says Robert Castaneda, “and it will instruct you to point it at one of our images. Once you do that the augmented reality kicks in.”
Once the app sees what you are looking at you will begin to see either the picture come to life, hear music, or be able to interact with it on a larger scale. The most interactive of the pictures is found downtown at 523 S. Campbell St. and 4 th Ave.
That piece is titled Barrio Soul and features older bands and Steve Crosno.
“It’s a mix between our own artwork and collaborations,” said Robert. “Basically, whatever artwork we put in the app, that’s how it works.”
“It started off with our own artwork,” David said. “that’s when we had our first exhibits. Then we started collaborating with artists around the city.”
Robert said that with the Augmented El Paso app adds to the work. In a way, it brings it to life, and as Robert told me it allows you to understand the piece more, to see where the artist was creating from, and going.
“It’s a creative outlet,” Robert said. “You can look at a picture and that’s fine. The augmented reality ads an extra dimension to it.”
I like the idea of interactive ads such as this. Being able to point my phone or table at it and seeing something that is engaging. Something that adds an extra dimension to it, an extra punch that makes it more interesting than a two-demintiol piece. That would be something that would get me to go out and visit a store!
So, how do they choose the art the use of the project?
“All three of us,” says David of himself, Robert and Romelia Adams, “scouted the city and we were just trying to see which murals would be most compatible, which ones actually had a statement, which one of them looked fun to enhance.”
From there they narrowed them down and started contacting the artist. From that, they also looked at cultural relevance.
The statement they want the pieces to make? “Just a positive message for the city,” says David. “To me,” he added, “I like it when the message brings everyone together or opens up their minds. Makes people think.”
As part of my interview, and included in the video, you will see some the guys demonstrate some of the pieces they’ve augmented. Like the heart and operating room for Texas Tech.
Also, if you download the app, and point it at the photos of the two skeletons, you’ll see how it works. (After pointing it at the picture, you’ll see the skeletons become a bit larger and sort of jump off the canvas, after that all you need to do is just touch it and you’ll see the magic!)
I hope you’ll download the app, and take a small adventure and find some of the works around town.
Where can you go to see the works that are augmented by Augment El Paso?
Barrio Soul at 523 S. Campbell St. and 4 th Ave.
Sister Cities at Father Rahm and El Paso Street
PasoPortAll at the International Stanton Street Port of Entry
Omecoatl – Twin Serpents at Lincoln Park
Augment El Paso also has a small booklet entitled AUGMENT EL PASO Selected Works Vol 1.