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App connects screen to great art

In a world where people are glued to screens, getting educational content on those screens becomes increasingly important. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is releasing its second app, this time geared at tweens, and it does just that.

“We’re trying to merge old-world technologies of education with new-world technologies of education in a way that’s responsible for our legacy and also pays tribute to it but at the same time looks forward to the future and the future that will be with the students that we’re training as the leaders of our world for tomorrow,” said Joe Lin-Hill, deputy director at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and artistic manager of the newest app design team.

The Albright-Knox Innovation Lab teamed up with the International Center for Excellence in Animation at Daemen College, Empire Visual Effects, Buffalo, and All Things Media, Mahwah, N.J., to bring ArtGames 2.0 to life.

The app is designed as an interactive universe where each player gets his or her own world to play games, and as the player levels up, they can unlock different decorations for their little spherical world. The aim is to engage 9 to 13 year-olds in the world of visual art.

There are eight games in the app inspired by works of art in the gallery’s collection, from artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Vassily Kandinsky and Clyfford Still.

The games were designed with the artist’s process in mind. For example, the game based on Piet Mondrian’s “Composition No. 11, 1940-42 – London, with Blue, Red and Yellow” challenges the player to place red, blue and yellow squares that are assigned weight values on a virtual board that tips and turns until the weight distribution is even.

“That was something that was very interesting to Mondrian, was how to arrange color in order to create a balance for tension visually,” said Laura Watts Sommer, director of the department of visual and performing arts at Daemen College. “The children, when playing these games, understand the concept that you have to balance these various elements, and the colors here are literally given a weight. Their aim is to create some sort of balance and even tension. So if they play this game even for 10 minutes, it’s been an insight into the world of art that many people might not have had before.”

In other games, the artists gave input and suggestions for aspects of their art they wanted included in their game. Russell Davidson, innovation lab and special projects manager at the Albright-Knox, said all of the living artists have seen the game throughout the development process. Do Ho Suh, for example, was heavily involved on giving input for the game modeled after his sculpture “Karma.”

“A couple of things that were important to him was that the ratio, the proportionality, remains consistent with the sculpture,” Davidson said. “Another concept that he thinks is important that he thinks we capture well in the game is that the piece is somewhat ambiguous as to whether it is descending or ascending and the way that (the game) works, you’re kind of playing off of both aspects of that as well.”

The free app took about two years to develop. Lin-Hill said children in the testing group came to the museum and were excited to see works of art in person that they first experiences on the app.

“That’s sort of the jackpot experience we’re hoping that young people will have with it,” he said.

Following a launch party on Saturday, hosted on the Albright-Knox back lawn, ArtGames 2.0 will be available for download in Apple App store and the Google Play store for IOS and Android systems. The event will be from 3 to 6 p.m. and will include live music, giveaways, activities, games and food trucks.


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