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ArtLink Debuts New Way For Northeast Indiana Artists To Create

Ruth Yaro
Artist Kara Heingartner uses the virtual reality equipment

A Fort Wayne art gallery just unveiled a new, digital way for Northeast Indiana artists to show off their creativity. At an event last night, ArtLink showed off its new virtual reality project.

"This is a creative tool, something that empowers people."

The director of ArtLink, Matt McClure, says the art gallery bought the Google Tilt Brush software to take advantage of the newest way for artists to express themselves.

“We’re not doing this just to have the next cool toy,” McClure said. “In fact, this isn’t a toy. This is a creative tool, something that empowers people.”

It does feel fun like a toy, but McClure says that’s not unusual.

“So are crayons. Crayons, pencils, pens, paint brushes, those are fun like toys,” he said. “This is no different. It’s just a different environment, a different medium.”

Credit Lisa Ryan, WBOI News
WBOI's Julia Meek tries out the virtual reality world.

When people use the VR equipment, they put on a headset that covers their eyes so they’re surrounded in the virtual world. There’s a TV screen that shows whatever the person is drawing, but it’s two dimensional. The artist is creating three-dimensional works that surround him or her. There are different brushes, some that create sparkles, or rainbows, and even a brush that creates lines that look like audio waveforms.

McClure says a classroom in ArtLink will be converted into a place for people to use the new Google Tilt Brush virtual reality software.

“What that means is that people from the community can come in here and they can use virtual reality creative tools to paint in three dimensions, to sculpt in three dimensions, express themselves in this way,” he said. “Completely immersive, breaking down those boundaries.”

"So this technology, which is typically cost prohibitive, is now going to be available to people in this community."

McClure says that in general, virtual reality has only been available to people who can afford it, but he wants everyone to have access to it.

“So this technology, which is typically cost prohibitive, is now going to be available to people in this community,” he said.

People can book the virtual reality room in half hour time slots, and the cost will likely be $5 for ArtLink members and $10 for non-members. McClure says they are still deciding on some of the details before they open it to the public in early June.

McClure says the money to buy the technology was donated to ArtLink. Although they are charging people to use it, he wants to eventually make it free for student groups, and possibly bring it outside of their downtown Fort Wayne building to people who can’t easily find transportation. He says everyone--not just artists--can benefit from creating in virtual reality.

“In the same way children have open space to play, pretend, to just have their imagination be cultivated,” McClure said.

McClure imagines a world where these virtual creations can be seen at art exhibits by people also wearing virtual reality headsets.

“I fully expect for this to be normal in the next ten years and then something else will be created and that’s the next creative tool. We’re just creative people creating things to create,” McClure said.

"It literally removes that boundary."

Or, in a world where reality and virtual reality are intertwined, McClure could see these digital pieces becoming the new public art.

“So that means you could create a virtual sculpture, export it, drop it somewhere in Fort Wayne, and we could have an entirely virtual sculpture public art project,” he said.

McClure says virtual reality is just the next step in digital art.

“Think of it this way. There are people who do digital drawing and painting on the screen. What this does, is it literally removes that, that boundary,” he said.

ArtLink expects to open the new virtual reality space in June, and it will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 7:00.

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