Festival to introduce digital graffiti downtown

News Herald (Panama City, FL), 2014-08-25


Aug. 25 -- PANAMA CITY -- Most of the projected images are simple.

There is an animation of white loops, what looks like a tribal tattoo perpetually reaching into the far reaches of the screen. John Daniel has others, a video of him gliding down a powdery slope, ski poles visible in the peripheral vision of the skier. There is one documenting the flight of a small airplane, surveying the green expanses of Bay County .

Some are abstract like an anonymous human form, head masked by the angry face of Donald Trump , hands transformed into kitten faces. Even a complicated animation -- there's one where a brilliant sun is gradually surrounded with orbiting planets -- don't really lend themselves to an intricate interpretation.

But that's the point -- digital graffiti is supposed to be accessible.

"I think it's a great way to involve and invite people who would otherwise think they're not part of an art scene," City Arts Cooperative Director Heather Clements said. "I'm a professor of art and some people are intimidated by that."

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Daniel and artistic partner Margaret Webster are the creators and operators of Public Eye Soar, currently headquartered in the second floor of the city arts cooperative. The former television news producers have been interested in digital graffiti for a few years. Daniel has had pieces featured at the Alys Beach Digital Graffiti Festival, the first of which won $1,000 and audience favorite, and creates pieces for nightclubs in Arizona and Colorado .

Public Eye Soar will introduce its hometown to digital graffiti with a festival on Sept. 26 and 27, with projections showing in and around the arts cooperative. The event is free to attend and free to enter.

Digital graffiti can be any image projected onto an exterior wall. Daniel and Webster are still actively seeking submissions for the festival contest. The submissions can include still photography, videos or animations but Daniel and Webster will only use pieces that are rated G.

"If you submit it, we'll try our best to run it," Webster said.

They have received some creative pieces already: two from a German artist depicting stop motion cardboard figures and the other animated characters using pins and rubber bands and a video from an artist in Montreal showing his entire morning routine from the handlebars of a bicycle as he rides around the city.

Interactive pieces are part of what makes digital graffiti unique. Some utilize technology similar to an Xbox Kinnect to allow users to transform their bodies into a video game controller. Daniel is working on a flight simulator, which can measure virtual banks and tilt of a participant's outstretched arms. Daniel is also trying to enlist other cooperative artists to draw around the figures of participants with a live doodler feature.

The interactive piece that got a joyful reaction from Webster's daughter, and a piece that will be featured during the festival, are electronic drums connected to lasers and lights. Lasers flash and dance with every downbeat.

Public Eye Soar is planning to rent 13 different projectors to use for the festival in 10 different areas, the largest of which will be two stories tall and about 50 feet wide on the Seifert and Dykes wall behind the arts cooperative. By renting the most expensive equipment, Public Eye Soar will put on the two-day festival for between $1,500 and $2,000 . With the event being cost effective, digital graffiti lends itself to expansion.

"We have begged and borrowed, called in favors to keep our costs at a minimum," Webster said.

Public Eye Soar was featured in the Community Redevelopment Agency's downtown streetscape plan. Projected art could become a staple of downtown at night.

Thus far, Daniel is unsure of the future of the plan, especially since CRA director William Whitson resigned.

"Big picture, we'd love to have this downtown on a regular basis," Daniel said.

The biggest picture Webster could think of was wrapping the Marina Civic Center in graffiti for either July 4 or Christmas.

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(c)2014 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

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