NSights Blog

Reno Street Art Project: Preserving the ephemeral

The Reno Street Art Project, which uses all manner of expression to capture the changing aesthetic of Reno's landscape, kicks off July 17

A little more than one year ago I was seeking a new and exciting project to manage. My boss, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Amy Hunsaker, had long been interested in a project in Buenos Aries that documented street art. When Amy mentioned this to me it got me thinking ... we have our own street art movement taking place in Reno. Why not try and capture photography and metadata of this ephemeral art and create an online digital archive available to library users to help preserve a celebrated part of our city's character? This is how the idea for the Reno Street Art Project was born.

The Project is a multimedia time capsule highlighting street art on display in Reno between July 2017 - December 2017. I am also working to maintain a living archive by adding newly created street art murals to the existing digital archive. The Project team identified and collaborated with several local artists to generate a digital archive populated with more than 500 entries of street art representing more than 200 individual murals. The @One and @Reality team created a complimentary virtual reality (VR) gallery celebrating the medium.

As a local living in midtown since 2011, I've seen our demography change and have witnessed a physical and aesthetic change in the landscape. I saw amazing street art going up and coming down quite frequently. I began developing a project plan to capture Reno's street art and was soon connected to Jeannette Martinez, a contemporary street art specialist. As we began kicking around the idea to document as much of Reno's street art as possible for our digital archive another idea emerged. Mark Gandolfo, Director of Digital Media Technology for @One, heard about our desire to preserve Reno's street art. He suggested we harness the power of University Libraries @One multimedia specialists to capture 360-degree virtual reality content of a select sample of Reno's street art.

The virtual reality (VR) component is an amazing enhancement to the digital archive. University Libraries is a traditional academic library that fully embraces the digital culture of the world we live in. This is where my colleague Luka Starmer, @One multimedia specialist, comes in.

Murals dotted around Reno live on walls of all shapes and sizes. They brighten the character in the most beautiful neighborhoods and the dodgiest of alleyways. Straight forward archival photography alone wouldn't capture the scale and presence of this street art; Virtual reality could.

Luka started working for University Libraries last summer. Prior to his arrival he was a graduate student at the Reynolds School of Journalism. He produced a final project that leveraged the use of VR for storytelling. From the earliest Project production meetings, the team knew that the 360-degree video component would utilize storytelling techniques to supplement the academic metadata I was working to develop in the archive.

Now complete, the virtual reality tour component of the Reno Street Art Project allows users to hear from Reno's street-art muralists in their own words. Artists themselves are featured in the VR tour and can be seen describing their work, inspiration, favorite medium and more. It's a completely immersive and interactive way to take in all of Reno's awesome street art on your own time, indoors, and in a convenient location on campus - the @Reality virtual and augmented reality studio located on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center inside the @One area.

Using 360-video, we captured a perspective that makes the user physically tilt their head up and side-to-side to be able to observe the art. And behind them, cars drive by, people are carrying on with their daily lives. You're feeling the art in its sense of place.

Throughout the course of working on the Project, I felt it was my duty to help preserve this beautiful artwork by offering library users a place to go to experience the evolution of Reno's street art scene. The database is fully searchable and opens new doors to muralists' styles, mediums and much more. It is my hope that the archive gets used by University departments like Art, History and Journalism, and even by users not affiliated with the University since the archive is accessible to anyone with access to the internet.

We will officially launch the Reno Street Art Project on July 17 in conjunction with Artown. The Reno Street Art Project event will take place from 6 - 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. in the @One on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center.

All of the event information can be found online here. Space is limited and the event is free and open to attendees of all ages.

Guests can watch four of Reno's most recognized muralists create live street art-style paintings using our virtual reality software, KingSpray. We will have prints made of the original street art that our participating muralists create during the event. These printed materials will be given away to guests as a memento. Participating muralists include: Anthony Ortega, VAKA, Joe C. Rock and Jenn Charboneau.

Guests will also be able to experience a variety of virtual reality demos, participate in a digital scavenger hunt featuring the Reno Street Art Project digital archive, and will be able to immerse themselves in Reno's street-art scene by checking out our VR Reno Street Art Project gallery.

Learn more by following us on FacebookView the event information on the University Events Calendar.

(Editor's Note: Author Laura Rocke is pictured with Luka Starmer, @One Media Specialist.)

Laura Rocke with colleague Luka Starmer