Go See These Interactive Holiday Window Displays Downtown

Combining window painting with app-based augmented reality technology that brings the work to life, this arts festival hosted by Buds Collective offers an interactive celebration of the season.

Artist Mateusz Napieralski painting a window for Northern Reflections 2018. Photograph by Katy Whitt.

Since 2017, the Calgary artist group Buds Collective has hosted the Northern Reflections Window Exhibition. Combining window painting with app-based augmented reality (AR) technology that brings the work to life, this arts festival offers an interactive celebration of the season.

“What’s always been part of the holiday season is that idea of magic and wonder — creating that feeling of awe,” says Buds Collective founder Kathryn Pearce, event director for Northern Reflections. “AR technology is able to do that. It’s very much a magical experience.”

Buds Collective’s app, Augle, uses phone cameras to recognize the art pieces painted on public windows, triggering overlaid animations that bring the static art into motion on screen. “It’s a great opportunity to take your work to another level and let your audiences connect with it in a way that’s more personal,” says illustrator and animator Mateusz Napieralski, who has participated in Northern Reflections for the past two years. “Screens have a bit of a bad rap, but things like this actually encourage you to go out into the real world and interact with it in new ways.” As in past years, Augle will track how many murals each user has viewed. Visiting a certain percentage of the art pieces unlocks voting privileges for the People’s Favourite Award.

Pearce says the sub-zero temperatures of Calgary winter are central to the event, which embraces the city’s chilly reputation in the themes of the murals. Last year, Napieralski’s Snow Day winter landscape painted on the windows of the ATB Financial Branch for Arts & Culture on Stephen Avenue came to life with ice-skating and other winter activities when viewed through the app.

Northern Reflections runs throughout December, after which the window murals are washed off. Napieralski says he finds the temporary nature of the exhibition fitting. “It kind of feels right — nothing is forever in life,” he says. “I’m just kind of happy to be part of it and create something for people to experience during that time.”

Northern Reflections Window Exhibition 2019 runs Dec. 1 to 31. For mural locations, visit budsofbuds.com.

For the annual Northern Reflections Window Exhibition, artists create murals on display windows in downtown Calgary for the month of December. Using an app called Augle, the murals come to life when viewed through a smartphone camera. Try out Augle on this artwork by Mateusz Napieralski, who did murals for the last two Northern Reflections and will also be part of the 2019 exhibition. Image courtesy of Northern Reflections.

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This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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