Dancing Worlds

Virtual Visions: Bridging art and technology through Rotary's VR Gallery

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Dream: Envisioned during the pandemic, this project aimed to transcend traditional art exhibition boundaries by leveraging virtual reality (VR) technology. The dream was to create an immersive art experience that could connect artists and audiences worldwide, breaking free from the constraints of physical space and traditional art promotion methods.

Idea: The idea for a VR art gallery materialized through conversations among artists Maciej Kowa, Kamila Sitek, and later, with the addition of VR expert Katarzyna Koba and Endi, who provided a template for the virtual gallery space. This collaborative effort was aimed at exploring the potential of VR as a medium for art exhibitions and international communication.

Realization: After months of planning and development, the virtual environment was launched in June 2021, showcasing works by Kowa and Sitek. This innovative space was accessible until September 2021, when an update to the AltSpace VR system rendered the application inoperative. The project, a part of the "Supporting the Arts through Rotary" initiative, highlighted the challenges and potential of digital art platforms.

Challenges and Solutions: The main challenge was adapting to the technical demands of creating a VR gallery without prior experience or funding. The team overcame this by utilizing free digital tools like AltSpace VR and Unity 3D for 3D modeling, and by dedicating their time and skills to learn and implement the necessary technology. Despite obstacles, such as the application's eventual incompatibility with AltSpace VR updates, the project demonstrated the feasibility of virtual art exhibitions.

Innovation: This VR gallery was an experiment in delivering an art experience that closely resembled attending a real-life exhibition. It was a pioneering attempt to use VR for art promotion, emphasizing art's emotional impact and potential for raising awareness on various issues.

Effect: The project successfully brought together artists, Rotary members, and VR enthusiasts in a unique virtual setting. The vernissage, where creators and guests could interact within the VR world, exemplified the project's success in fostering a sense of community and engagement beyond geographical limitations.

Target Audience: The VR gallery was designed for artists looking to showcase their work, Rotary members interested in innovative art promotion methods, and users of the VR environment eager to explore new forms of artistic expression.

Sustainability: The VR gallery model proved to be sustainable and replicable for future exhibitions, with educational benefits in teaching technology through art. Platforms like Mozilla Hub and VRChat present opportunities for continued exploration and presentation of virtual art galleries.

Digital Tools: The project utilized the AltSpace VR platform and Unity 3D for creating the virtual gallery, chosen for their accessibility as free resources. Despite facing technical challenges and system limitations, these tools facilitated the creation of an immersive art experience.

Funding: The initiative was a volunteer project, fueled by the passion and commitment of its team members who invested their time and resources without external funding.

Future: Looking ahead, the project's legacy could extend to educational uses, particularly in VR world-building education for students. The team remains hopeful about overcoming technical setbacks and exploring funding options to revive or reimagine the gallery in new virtual spaces, contributing to the burgeoning metaverse.

Responsible institution: Rotary Klub Białystok
Contact person on good practice: Kamila Sitak - interior architect and painter, member of Rotary Club of Bialystok: kamilasitak@gmail.com
Contact person on VR: Katarzyna Robo Koba - expert on education and prototyping, in virtual and augmented worlds: katarzynakoba@gmail.com