Buf­falo mu­seum gam­ing app built around art­work


The new­est work at the Al­bright-Knox Art Gallery is a gam­ing app meant to put mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art in front of kids by way of their smart­phones.

ArtGames 2.0 will be avail­able for free from the Ap­ple App and Google Play stores on Satur­day.

De­vel­op­ers at the mu­seum’s new In­no­va­tion Lab worked with artists in­clud­ing Do Ho Suh and Jason Mid­dle­brook to de­velop games built around their artis­tic con­cepts. All eight games are inspired by works in the Al­brightKnox col­lec­tion.

The “Equilib­rian” game, based on Piet Mon­drian’s “Com­po­si­tion No. 11,” for ex­am­ple, as­signs mea­sures of weight to pri­mary col­ors and chal­lenges play­ers to use the col­ors to fill in and level a float­ing ge­o­graphic plane.

“It’s about bal­ance and ten­sion and that was one of (Mon­drian’s) ma­jor con­cerns when he was paint­ing, us­ing sim­ple means, cre­at­ing a har­mony and a vi­tal­ity in a work of art,” said Laura Watts Som­mer, di­rec­tor or vis­ual and per­form­ing arts at Dae­men Col­lege, whose an­i­ma­tion lab col­lab­o­rated on the pro­ject. “That’s what the chil­dren are do­ing when they are play­ing this game. And when they stand in front of a Mon­drian paint­ing ... they’re go­ing to un­der­stand what that paint­ing is about be­cause they played this game.”

Vin­cent Van Gogh’s “The Old Mill,” was the ba­sis for “Spe­cial De­liv­ery,” where play­ers guide a char­ac­ter over haystacks and around holes in a warmly col­ored land­scape.

As long as their eyes are locked on the screen, play­ers are view­ing art and ab­sorb­ing it in a mean­ing­ful way, de­vel­op­ers said.

“The real goal of this is to get chil­dren en­thused about art­work through a medium that we know they’re al­ready en­thused about,” said Rus­sell David­son, the In­no­va­tion Lab and spe­cial projects man­ager. “We’re en­gag­ing kids on their level, as op­posed to keep­ing art some­thing that’s a lit­tle bit more dif­fi­cult for them to at­tain or un­der­stand.”

The app and the In­no­va­tion Lab where it was de­vel­oped are part of a broader strat­egy to more fully en­gage the gallery in the com­mu­nity and open its doors to a wider au­di­ence, Deputy Di­rec­tor Joe Lin-Hill said. Ver­sions of in­no­va­tion labs have emerged in mu­se­ums across the coun­try with sim­i­lar goals.

“Mu­se­ums are no longer repos­i­to­ries of ob­jects,” Lin-Hill said. “They can play a dy­namic role in the com­mu­nity.”

Be­sides Dae­men Col­lege in sub­ur­ban Amherst, the In­no­va­tion Lab’s gam­ing app part­ners were Em­pire Vis­ual Ef­fects of Buf­falo and All Things Media of Mahwah, New Jersey.


Jamie Drury, 12, plays the game “Equilib­rian” at the Al­bright-Knox Art Gallery in Buf­falo, New York, Thurs­day, June 25.

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