The original space was open December 2012 - March 2017, and relaunched as ARTLENS Gallery in June 2017.
The first iteration of the Cleveland Museum of Art's groundbreaking space blended art, technology, and interpretation to inspire visitors to explore the museum’s permanent collection. It offered something for everyone, from first-time to frequent museum visitors.
Inside the original gallery space, visitors saw real works of art from the museum’s collection, including masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Viktor Schreckengost, Giovanni Panini, and Chuck Close. Hands-on and technology-based activities offered visitors the chance to explore these works of art like never before. Through fun games and facts, visitors learned how works of art are made, where they come from, and why they are produced.
This space debuted the largest multitouch MicroTile screen in the United States at the time, displaying images of over 4,100 objects from the museum’s world-renowned permanent collection. This 40-foot Collection Wall (now known as ArtLens Wall) allowed visitors to create their own tours of the museum and to discover the full breadth of the collections on view throughout the museum’s galleries.
The gallery interactives paired seamlessly with ArtLens (now known as ArtLens App), for iPad, iPhone, and Android. Before, during, or after a visit, visitors could enjoy over nine hours of additional multimedia content, including audio tour segments, videos, and additional contextual information. The interactive map in ArtLens app used iBeacon technology to help guide visitors and find works of art with additional content nearby. In an unprecedented combination of technology interfaces, iOS and Android devices could be docked at the Collection Wall, where visitors could save objects from the wall to their device, creating a list of favorites. Favorites could be shared via social media or used to create a custom tour. This feature allowed visitors to “walk” the museum, both physically and virtually from off site. Taken together, this suite of new interfaces transformed the visitor experience by extending the access and creative agency of each individual visitor.
The original experience consisted of ten interactives: the Collection Wall, three interactives designed for children and located in Studio Play, and six interactive displays (lenses). In addition, there was a museum-wide app, ArtLens, and the Beacon located at the lobby entrance, a 4-by-4 array of 55in Edgelit 1080p LED displays. It played a looping, non-interactive program displaying both dynamic and pre-rendered content.
The six interactive stations collectively known as “lenses” featured touch screens that allow visitors to discover information about related artworks placed nearby, as well as engage in unique interactive activities. While all lenses shared a similar home screen layout, each possessed its own theme related to the artwork on display. Information was provided in a question and answer format, and hotspots allowed visitors to find out additional information by touching specially designated areas. Additionally, the touch capability of the lenses enabled visitors the opportunity to have interactive viewpoints that would not be possible in a traditional gallery setting, such as a view of the back of a bowl or zoom in on a painting. The six lenses and their features were:
- Make a Face: Facial recognition software was employed to match visitors’ facial expressions with one of 189 artworks in the museum’s collection. The matched faces were displayed in photo-booth styled strips that were visible on the Beacon near the gallery’s entry.
- Strike a Pose: The visitor was asked to imitate the pose of a sculpture, and provided feedback relating to the accuracy of their pose. Visitors were able to share their poses and view others’ poses, in addition to trying another pose.
- Cast a Vote: This activity tasked visitors with examining the meaning and symbolism of various ways of presenting an idea, in this case that of a lion. Visitors were provided with a variety of lions in art, and asked their opinions on which would best fit a number of terms, ranging from realistic to fierce. After inputting responses, visitors were presented with an infographic comparing their responses to an aggregate of previous answers.
- Find the Origin: This activity presented visitors with three narrative archetypes illustrated by the artworks displayed in front of them, and challenged users to identify analogues in historical and popular cultural examples. This activity served as a demonstration that epic stories continue to be re-told throughout different eras and cultures.
- Tell a Story: This activity was based on the myth of Perseus, as depicted by the tapestry on display nearby. Visitors were tasked with arranging scenes from the tapestry in order to form a story arc within a comic book film, and were able to add items such as speech bubbles or text to their film. After completion, visitors were able to share their final result with themselves or others via email.
- Global Influences: The visitor was presented with an artwork and was asked to guess which two countries on the map influenced the artwork in question. An introductory animation explored how many works of art and design objects reflect the influences of multiple cultures, and presented specific examples to illustrate this point.
- Create a Vase: Visitors were introduced to the vase trade between Europe and Asia, and were able to select from several different options in order to build a virtual vase. Each option (shape, materials, pattern, and technique) was provided with a unique price estimate, and once completed the visitor’s vase was displayed alongside a similar vase in the museum’s collection. This illustrated how construction techniques and origin location affect market value for an object.
- Draw a Line: In this activity, visitors were tasked with drawing a line across the screen, which was then used to call up one of 442 objects in the museum’s collection created in the 1930s that contained a similar line. Additional information on the artwork was displayed along with the image.
- Explore the 1930s: This activity presented a narrative montage of imagery from the 1930s, focusing on the story of the Great Depression and Cleveland’s role in this period. It was designed to give the viewer greater context through which to approach the artwork in the lens and illustrate the ways the works on view fit into the general themes of the era.
- Choose a Reason: The visitor was presented with one of 89 artworks from the museum’s collection and tasked with selecting one of five reasons they believed was a motivational factor in the creation of that painting. The visitor’s response was then compared with that of other visitors along with a caption providing information about the artist and painting.
- Make Your Mark: Visitors were provided with three abstract painting techniques, represented by different objects from the museum’s collection, and were invited to become a virtual abstract painter by utilizing the techniques of pour, drip, and gesture to create art of their own.
- Remix Picasso: The visitor was invited to re-arrange “pieces” of a composition any way he or she liked, in order to illustrate the interplay between flatness and depth in paintings.
- Change Perspective: The visitor was invited to explore one, two, and three-point perspective by manipulating graphical overlays applied to artworks in the CMA collection.
- Discover Tempera: This activity illustrated each of the five stages of the tempera painting process and provided visitors with a high-resolution version of the effect each subsequent layer has on the overall painting.
Interactive Activities in Studio Play
- Line and Shape: Visitors drew lines across a small wall using touch. The program then rapidly scanned 7,000 works of art in the collection and then placeed an image of a matching line underneath the line drawn. The wall supported rapid drawing and display of objects, and was designed to be dynamic in its presentation. (A larger, updated version of this popular interactive is available in ArtLens Studio.)
- Matching and Sorting: In this activity, young visitors were presented with six works of art and an object or theme, such as “glasses” or “work.” They were tasked with tapping on the artworks in the group they were shown that depict the requested theme within a time limit. To suit varied skill levels and ages, there were multiple levels of difficulty for this activity. (This popular interactive is still available in ArtLens Studio.)