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Lisa Moren receives $70,000 award to develop augmented reality app

Lisa Moren, professor of visual arts, has received a production fund award from the from Johns Hopkins University’s Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media for the collaborative project NONUMENT 01::The McKeldin Fountain. The award includes $70,000 of funding to develop an augmented reality app.

“The Nonument app is a virtual memorial to the demolished McKeldin Fountain” says Moren. “The spirit of Nonument is to validate public spaces that are important to real people, making stimulating places full of rich textures.”

As the project website explains:

Viewers will hold up a smartphone or tablet like a protest sign in order to see the lost fountain, hear the waterfalls and nearly forgotten stories from the past 35 years. Sound scores and first-hand stories will remember Occupy Baltimore, the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in the hands of Baltimore Police, the National Guard on the site, the activists group Women in Black, controversial comedians, a marriage proposal, artists using soap bubbles, mermaid performances and many other personal, poetic and political stories imbued with frailty in this tenuous free speech zone.

Videos and animations further illustrate the history of the site in the app.

NONUMENT 01 is part of a larger NONUMENT research project conceived by the Museum of Transitory Art (MoTA) in Lubljana, Slovenia. It addresses the perception of public space and its role in urban everyday life. NONUMENT was developed within the ARTECITYA network co-financed by Creative Europe, devoted to artistic and technological innovations with the aim of improving the quality of life in cities.

The NONUMENT 01::The McKeldin Fountain website further explains that NONUMENT is “an international initiative that seeks to honor hidden urban spaces that carry symbolic value for ordinary people.” Rather than using bronze or stone, the project “installs new and emerging media forms in order to capture the transitory nature of everyday experiences.”

NONUMENT01::The McKeldin Fountain is the first implementation of the project in collaboration with Baltimore artists Lisa Moren and Jaimes Mayhew ’10 M.F.A., intermedia and digital arts, and Martin Bricelj Baraga and Neja Tomšič (artist-in residence in UMBC’s department of visual arts in fall 2014). The NONUMENT01::The McKeldin Fountain website, project videos, 3D model, and animations were produced with support from the Imaging Research Center at UMBC, the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund, LABStudios, and CEC ArtsLink.

The McKeldin Fountain, plaza area, and walkways were built in 1982 and designed to serve as public space at the corners of Pratt and Light Streets, adjacent to the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The redevelopment of the Inner Harbor was the culmination of a period of transformation for the area from an industrial space to a tourist and residential district, envisioned in the 1960s by Mayor Theodore McKeldin.

The plaza was often a public gathering spot for tourists, residents, and workers. It was designated a free speech zone and was a gathering point in the city for demonstrations and protests. The decision by former Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings Blake and the Downtown Partnership to demolish the fountain without concrete future plans was controversial among city residents. The City of Baltimore’s plans for the site remain unknown.

Moren was named among the first cohort of Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund Bold Voice, New Paradigms Incubator Fellows in October 2016 to develop the Nonument app concept. Johns Hopkins founded the fund in March 2016 through a $1 million grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation. Zaentz was an Oscar-winning producer who died in 2014. The incubator supports Baltimore artists by networking them with others to develop and realize their ideas in Baltimore. The deadline for applications for the third incubator program, which begins in late April, is March 31.

Image and video: Courtesy of the NONUMENT 01::The McKeldin Fountain artists.

See coverage in the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore artists to receive funding for film, media projects from Johns Hopkins fund