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Scottsdale Public Art Adds Augmented Reality To Artwork

The Scottsdale Public Art channel on the Hoverlay app reveals augmented reality features for artworks like “LOVE” by Robert Indiana.

By: Mar. 31, 2021
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Scottsdale Public Art Adds Augmented Reality To Artwork  Image

Eleven artworks in the Scottsdale Public Art Permanent Collection are now enhanced with augmented reality elements, viewable through a mobile device app.

Scottsdale Public Art debuted the augmented reality features in November during Canal Convergence 2020. Most of the temporary Canal Convergence artworks and select pieces from the permanent collection were chosen to include AR elements.

"The augmented reality experiences were fast-tracked because of the pandemic," said Tanya Galin, public art coordinator for Scottsdale Public Art. "We no longer could have in-person tours of the artworks during Canal Convergence, so AR allowed us to provide background information on the piece without a physical person standing there."

Like the temporary Canal Convergence artworks, the 11 permanent pieces feature animations and video of various presenters talking about the artworks. Augmented reality allows viewers to see the natural environment through their device's camera with a digital overlay that makes it appear as if the presenters are standing near the artworks. The AR experiences can be found on the ScottsdalePublicArt channel of the Hoverlay app, available through app stores.

The augmented reality features provide further insight on the artworks from the perspective of the artists, Scottsdale Public Art staff, or others associated with the pieces. The experiences can be triggered via Hoverlay when viewers are standing near the physical artworks.

"With these new AR features, people can find out more about the artworks than they would get from a simple plaque," said Wendy Raisanen, curator of collections for Scottsdale Public Art, who is among the AR figures that appear at the artworks. "It was fun to tell stories about the public art in front of the green screen, and then see my avatar talking on the screen of my phone."

One advantage of augmented reality is how it can be accessed anytime. There's no need to schedule a tour on a specific day to learn more about the artwork. All that is required is a mobile device and the free Hoverlay app.

It has also provided a way for Scottsdale Public Art and the city of Scottsdale to safely continue a variation of its Cycle the Arts event this year. Typically held in April for Valley Bike Month, the annual bicycle tour of public art was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In years past, Scottsdale Public Art and the city would team up to host Cycle the Arts on one day because we would arrange artists and staff to be present at each stop," said Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker, public art manager for Scottsdale Public Art. "This year, AR technology allows us to offer additional content to the stops at any time and in a safe, socially distant manner. Cycle the Arts' content will now be available to anyone encountering these works - whether they are doing the tour on foot or even in their car - beyond Valley Bike Month and throughout the year."

For this year's 3.25-mile curated bicycle tour and to find out how to claim a free Cycle the Arts T-shirt, visit

The 11 artworks that currently feature AR experiences include "Bronze Horse Fountain" by Bob Parks, "Diamond Bloom" by Curtis Pittman, "Horseshoe Falls" by Michael Maglich, "Knight Rise" by James Turrell, "LOVE" by Robert Indiana, "One-Eyed Jack" by John Randall Nelson, "Passing the Legacy" by Herb Mignery, "Soleri Bridge and Plaza" by Paolo Soleri, "Spirt of Camelback" by Kana Tanaka, "Traceries" by Mary Bates Neubauer and "Windows to the West" by Louise Nevelson.

Nelson, Neubauer and Pittman all appear via AR at their respective artworks. Staff from the Cosanti Foundation are part of the AR at "Soleri Bridge and Plaza" while Mark Reynolds, captain of the Navajo County Sheriff's Hashknife Posse, talks about the historic Pony Express route depicted in "Passing the Legacy." "Spirit of Camelback" features an animation of blooming cacti and "Knight Rise" shows time-lapse video of the sky, as seen through the artwork. Raisanen appears in the AR for the four remaining pieces, offering behind-the-scenes stories and fun facts.

To learn more about the AR features and how to access them, visit


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