Charlene Johnny of Quw’utsun Tribes is one of just three B.C. artists who will learn how to turn her work into a more interactive experience thanks to the magic of augmented reality technology.
“I think it is really awesome to be learning with cool Indigenous artists who I admire,” said Johnny. “I am excited to be a part of our own little community and learn about the ways we can advance our ancestral knowledge and take our artistic skills into the digital world.”
On April 4 in partnership with Slow Studies Creative, Meta launched the Spark Indigenous Augmented Reality Creator Accelerator which ran from April 11 until May 12. This five-week incubator program provided 10 Indigenous artists across Canada hands-on training to share their culture and creative expression nation and worldwide, while incorporating AR as a part of their storytelling. Using Meta Spark Studio (a free AR design toolkit) creators will learn how to build their own AR experience while bring their creative ideas to fruition.
AR is an interactive experience that blends digital overlays onto the physical world, allowing creators to express themselves and showcase their culture in new ways, while connecting with audiences beyond the limits of physical spaces.
Johnny lives on the unceded territory of her ancestors the xwməθkwəy̓ əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Səl̓ ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh Nations. Her mediums of choice are graphic design and mural art, through her interdisciplinary approach to art and language, she is pleased to have this opportunity to learn new ways to share her ancestral artwork. Follow Johnny’s artistic journey @coastsalishart.
Johnny said she recently wrapped up a mural at Duncan’s Khowhemun Elementary. In addition to participating in the upcoming AR program, she has various projects on the go including graphic design commissions, and teaching painting workshops at an elementary and a high school in Vancouver. Johnny is also in the stages of designing a mural which she will be painting on Salt Spring Island in early June, and another in her hometown of Duncan for July.
Over the course of this five-week program, weekly sessions will offer all 10 creators the opportunity to share ideas, learn from one another’s artistic practice and consider how AR experiences can be used to support social movements and amplify meaningful causes.
Artists will also work closely with multi-disciplinary artist Josh Conrad who’s specializes in 3D and AR art.
Conrad who is from the Stó:lō nation, located in S’olh Temexw (Fraser Valley), and works under the moniker Slow Studies Creative in Vancouver, developed Spark Indigenous to ensure that Indigenous voices and culture are represented in AR for the world to marvel at.
“Traditional art can’t always be viewed by everyone, since it is hosted in a gallery or exhibition space,” said Conrad. “With AR, we can showcase the art on social platforms in a way that’s accessible and interactive, so more people can engage with these art pieces and stories. Using AR, our aim is to have our voices heard and culture seen, not just at community level, but around the world.”
Conrad believes extended reality (XR) is the future of creative technology and aims to demystify the technology through education while ensuring Indigenous voices and culture are well-represented and available to all in these emerging digital spaces.
“I think it is important to have authentic, culturally relevant content available in the digital world,” says Johnny. “Growing up, we didn’t have access to technology or digital community, let alone see artistic Indigenous representation in our day-to-day lives. Now, it is in the palm of our hands.
“I have been teaching and creating over the last few years, and I am always reminding young people that they have access and the right to learn our ways. My art practice is a direct result of cultural resilience, and I am grateful for the gifts my ancestors have given me and for the skills my mentors teach me.
“I am extremely grateful to be able to learn a new digital medium and my hope is that it reaches other Salish people and inspires them to tap into their creativity.”