Nevada Museum of Art, Libraries partnership: A 360-degree view of Seven Magic Mountains

Libraries technologist to give Nevada Museum of Art “Art Bite” talk on Seven Magic Mountains VR project June 21, Noon at Museum

Luka Starmer recording the 7mm in 360 video.

Luka Starmer stands at the site of the Seven Magic Mountains art installation located in Southern Nevada

Nevada Museum of Art, Libraries partnership: A 360-degree view of Seven Magic Mountains

Libraries technologist to give Nevada Museum of Art “Art Bite” talk on Seven Magic Mountains VR project June 21, Noon at Museum

Luka Starmer stands at the site of the Seven Magic Mountains art installation located in Southern Nevada

Luka Starmer recording the 7mm in 360 video.

Luka Starmer stands at the site of the Seven Magic Mountains art installation located in Southern Nevada

On Friday, June 21, at Noon at the Nevada Museum of Art, Luka Starmer, manager, Student Digital Media Technology for the University Libraries’ at the University of Nevada, Reno, will present an Art Bite talk titled, “Virtual Reality and Seven Magic Mountains.”

Starmer will discuss the process used to capture a large-scale art installation using 360 video and other new/emerging technologies to create an immersive and realistic VR experience. Art Bite attendees will get to experience Seven Magic Mountains on a big screen at the Museum, as well as in a VR headset just as if they were standing in the Southern Nevada desert looking at the actual installation.

About Seven Magic Mountains

In 2016 the Nevada Museum of Art (NMA, Museum) and Art Production fund worked with internationally renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone to produce and install Seven Magic Mountains, a large-scale site-specific public art installation located near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15, approximately ten miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. Comprised of seven towers of colorful stacked boulders standing more than thirty feet high the installation attracts more than 1,000 visitors a day.

A collaboration rooted in community

In 2019 the Museum became aware of the University Libraries’ 360 video project that brought Burning Man to people unable to attend the event via Virtual Reality (VR) through the production of The Window to Radical Inclusion – a 360 Immersive Experience.

Luka and Nick stand with the camera in front of the Seven Magic Mountains.
Luka Starmer and Nick Gapp check the settings on the camera

“Driven by accessibility, this project was incredibly inspiring,” Nevada Museum of Art Vice President of Museum Advancement and Deputy Director Claire Muñoz said. “Suddenly, it was clear. The work of VR and 360 video could be used to share experiences that felt immersive and in some ways true to life. VR helped address barriers (distance, physical, abilities, etc.) thanks to new technologies available.”

It was also in 2019 after seeing The Window to Radical Inclusion that the team from the Museum decided to reach out the Libraries to explore the possibility of partnering, using 360 video and photogrammetry to capture Seven Magic Mountains with the goal of sharing the final product, a VR-based experience, at the E.L. Cord Museum School, an active learning space at the Museum.

Pandemic tries to shut the project down

The NMA and Libraries teams traveled to the site in Southern Nevada and captured footage needed in February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down. When the pandemic hit, the project was put on hold.

Though on hold, the Libraries team worked with what they had and got the project to a good place, all while everyone was working remotely during the pandemic lockdown. The project went through several revisions as new technology emerged, or old technology became outdated or evolved.

“The VR headsets we initially designed the project for in 2020 aren’t even on the market anymore,” Starmer said. “Right up to the time of delivery of the project, our team was forced to improvise and pivot as VR technology updated and shifted. This presented its own set of challenges and problems, but we were able to work through them all.”

In the wake of the pandemic, the project kept evolving and improving.

“The Museum, much like the University, was in a state of reaction, planning, pivoting and restructuring all of our programs,” Muñoz said. “Though paused, the @One team never stopped thinking about the project and was eager to pick it back up when we came out of the pandemic.  Conversations resumed in earnest in Spring 2023. Now, Summer 2024, the Museum is very excited to have the project on view at the Museum School for all visitors to experience just as we envisioned back when all this began in 2019.”

Starmer said, “It’s been an honor to partner with the Museum. We feel like we are part of a growing bridge of collaboration between the museum, the University, and the community. Our team uses VR technology for preservation and archival types of projects that highlight the uniqueness of Nevada. Now we have the opportunity to span into the art world.”

All visitors to the Museum can now experience Seven Magic Mountains in VR.

“Having the VR experience reside in the lobby of the Museum School is another way people can engage with the public sculpture and immersive themselves in the art; all facilitated by Museum staff,” Muñoz said. “It raises the visibility for Seven Magic Mountains, but also for this unique, technologically advanced collaboration between the Libraries and the Museum.”

Different, unique way to preserve, experience, share art

Small, black, spherical camera on a tripod with Seven Magic Mountains in the background
The 360 camera used by the @One team; the Insta 360 Pro.

According to the team at the Museum, the use of technology was a necessary component of this project. While there is nothing that can equal the in-person experience at the site of the art piece, VR presents an immersive experience for people who may never get to the site in Southern Nevada. VR also brings the sheer scale of the 35-foot-tall painted boulders into perspective, forcing the user to actually tilt their head back to see the tops of the pillars.

By 2026 Muñoz said the Museum will need to deinstall the sculptures.

“As it stands, Seven Magic Mountains will need to move from its current site due to the airport expansion in Las Vegas,” she said. “The recording and VR experience has preserved this moment in time and will introduce new audiences to the public art installation in a way that photos and straight video are not able to do long after the installation has been removed from the site.”

The final product created by the Libraries team is realistic enough to create a memory in the mind of the person experiencing Seven Magic Mountains in VR.

When asked about the value of the partnership between the Museum and the Libraries, Muñoz said, “This has been a true partnership and one that we are incredibly grateful for.”

“Both the Libraries and the Museum, in particular the Center for Art + Environment (the Museum’s research center and library) have archival holdings and collections and a mission to make materials accessible to a broad audience. The integration of 360 video recordings and VR experiences as a new method of recording history, monumental artworks and experiences is something that will only broaden our ability to look to the past and think about the future. We can now bring experiences, like Burning Man or Seven Magic Mountains to new audiences across the world. It’s been a great beta test and I know it will open up so many more possibilities in the future.” 

If you attend the Art Bite talk on June 21

Is this a paid or free event?

The program is $15 for the general public, but is FREE for all University and TMCC students, high school students. University faculty are encouraged to reach out to the Museum’s Director of Public Programs, Caitlin Bell ( to coordinate group class visits for programs or to request free admission if the ticket price presets a barrier to access.

To register for the June 21 Art Bite visit the Nevada Museum of Art’s event calendar listing for “Virtual Reality and Seven Magic Mountains.”

What can attendees of the Art Bite talk expect?

On Friday, June 21 at noon Luka Starmer will present the Virtual Reality and Seven Magic Mountains  project and will share the process and final product at the Nevada Museum of Art. Attendees will get to experience Seven Magic Mountains on screen and in the VR headset. An early program was presented in 2019 when the project was still in concept development.

Latest From

Nevada Today