Juneteenth Hack brings together black artists with augmented reality technology

A group of technology-driven artists from Oakland kicked off their first Juneteenth hackathon this week, a technology event aimed at changing the way art is discovered and seen in their communities through a 21st century lens.

A local muralist finds a new way to present his work.

It is dusk after a long day at work. Timothy B finds himself in a room where a spray paint adds another touch of creativity to his mural.

“When you hang on the wall, nothing behind me, nothing around me is as important as what I do in front of me,” the artist explained.

The Oakland muralist says his trees are a reminder of the damage done in the past, and a call to fix what's broken.

“Let me go and bring these trees to life more than you know what they are,” said Timothy B.

His latest work will become a canvas for technologists gather in Oakland for the Juneteenth Hack.

Using augmented reality tools and apps, the Oakland native's mural at Oakland International High School will take on a new form during the event.

“I want people to be completely immersed in the piece, even if it's on their phone. What would that look like, right?” asked Timotheus B.

The Juneteenth Hackathon uses augmented reality to transform the way art is approached.

Damien McDuffie is the founder of Black endpoint, an app he designed to combine technology and art. He teamed up with Timothy B in 2020 to present their first augmented reality mural of the founding fathers of the Black Panthers.

“You can look around our city and you won't see any representation of them,” McDuffie said.

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale are seen across the street from the Oakland Police Department.

McDuffie has added historical context with speeches and audio that can be accessed by pointing to a phone as you pass.

“You've known how to do this for a while now. Now let's bring that over here and introduce it in a different way,” McDuffie said.

Newton and Seale suddenly 'come to life'. It is an example of introducing a community of artists to a platform where a touch of digital creativity can be added.

“We want more people to be able to tackle this and tell their stories from their perspective and create new ways for the way we tell stories in AR,” said McDuffie.

It's a step to bring more Black entrepreneurs, visionaries and artists closer to the future of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and technology.

“When you make technology accessible through art, you also open up the opportunity for diversity in the space,” says McDuffie.

Timothy B will be among the artists attending the Juneteenth Hackathon, expanding the possibilities to bring more life and eyes to see his message through his work, amplified by technology.

“Sometimes it's freestyle. It comes from within,” says Timothy B.

McDuffie says adding digital elements to physical art in collaboration with galleries and museums increases its value and increases the likelihood of sales.

Before he tinkered with augmented reality art, his best work sold for $250. But after adding elements of AR to his pieces, McDuffie says some pieces have sold for ten times that amount.

The hackathon runs until Sunday. More information is available on how to participate on the Juneteenth Hack website.

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