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Durham Murals being Brought to Life Using an AR App

Two new murals in downtown Durham, North Carolina, are being given a new touch with the help of augmented reality (AR) technology. One has to visit East Chapel Hill Street to gaze at these wonders, which were completed back in September 2019.

The subject of one mural is the legendary Frida Kahlo, looking up from a vibrantly painted over garage door. The other mural is an equally colourful decorative mural featuring a monarch butterfly as its focal point. Getting close to each of the murals brings audiences across an informational plaque.

The instructions found at the murals direct people to download the “Mariposa AR” application on their devices. Mariposa is the literal translation of butterfly in Spanish and an apt name given the theme of one of the murals. Upon downloading the app and viewing the murals, viewers get an experience enhanced through augmented reality. Information found within the app includes immigration stories, portals and floating objects that take people to the environs of a North Carolina Museum of Art display. Users should use the app with caution as they are in an open public space.

Code the Dream, a Durham organisation offering free software development training for needy individuals, is responsible for developing the AR application. It is providing an engaging and real-life offering, to uplift people by equipping them with the skills required to gain success. The “Mariposa AR” application is one of the many projects to be brought to life.

The ‘Mariposa’ butterfly mural in Durham, North Carolina. Image source: code the dream

The augmented reality application contains many stories related to immigration to the city of Durham. Its concept of using monarch butterflies as points on the map show the diverse origin places of Durham’s residents. The key reason for choosing monarch butterflies as a prominent symbol is due to its migratory nature, as the insect migrates to the United States from Mexico.

People paying a visit to these two murals can leave an account of their migration-related experiences. Some stories are quite impassioned, like that of Cruz who had to swim across rivers and traverse national borders to reach the city. There are also frivolous accounts like that of a visitor called Mike, who explains how he turned into a ninja after migrating from Russia to the US.

The AR application is quite connected to the artwork, influenced by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. These are two artists who gained considerable renown for representing Mexican modernism across the world. Choosing the artwork’s key points of interest are chosen by the artists. The app’s butterflies represent each viewer’s story similar to how the murals represent the private lives of the artists.

Cornello Campos, a painter of Mexican American heritage, is behind the butterfly mural. Speaking to the North Carolina Museum of Art, Campos expressed that creating the mural gave him a concrete opportunity to implement his style to represent his culture. Cecilia Lueza, the Argentine-origin painter of the Frida Kahlo mural, said that public art is not a thing in her native. She has aimed to represent the vibrancy of her cultural identity through the use of bright colours, citing Kahlo as an inspiration.

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