Walking down the Pearl Avenue alleyway, if you look up above the dumpsters you’ll see a large painting of a cutthroat trout on the wall of Pinky G’s Pizzeria.
You can then pull out your phone, open the Hoverlay app and hold it up to the fish.
As you do so, a voice-over and animation will begin. The trout on your screen will start to move its fins as the blue water behind it ripples. Putting too much fertilizer on lawns, the voice says, creates algae buildup in the water.
On screen, the blue water turns a murky green.
This algae, the voice explains, kills the insects that trout eat and covers the places that trout normally spawn, limiting their population and eventually forcing them to leave and seek out new habitat. Then the screen shifts again, and shows three actions to take to protect the water quality of Jackson-area streams.
This particular mural, created by Jackson artist Deb Fox, is one of 10 murals that Jackson Hole Public Art has put up around town over the summer. The mural project, “Wild Walls,” combines art with the app technology known as augmented reality to offer science-based lessons on water quality and conservation.
“There’s really huge potential [for the app], and it’s really something we look forward to doing more,” said Carrie Geraci, the executive director of Jackson Hole Public Art. “Hopefully, people will not just be enthralled by a beautiful image that they see but dig a little deeper and learn more about some of our local water quality issues, which certainly relate in other locations as well.”
Some of the augmented reality renderings animate the murals themselves, and others show a local conservationist or community member speaking about water quality issues while standing in front of the mural by using a green screen.
All of the animations were created by local artist Ouree Lee. Protect Our Waters Jackson Hole partnered with Jackson Hole Public Art to provide the water quality facts and the suggested actions people can take.
“We wanted to make sure if we were promoting conservation messages that they were based in science,” Geraci said.
Nine of the murals are impermanent, with wheat paste used to stick the paintings to the walls of participating local businesses. After the Fall Arts Festival they will be power-washed off the walls, creating a clean slate for next year.
The 10th mural is a permanent piece commissioned by Snake River Brewing Company. Laramie artist Dan Toro was unanimously selected by Jackson Hole Public Art from a group of applicants to create the mural, which covers most of the east-facing wall of the Brewery’s office building, parallel to the front lawn.
Toro visited Jackson and painted his mural in May, and an augmented reality feature through the Hoverlay app was created later.
To see all 10 murals you can pick up a map of their locations at one of several sponsors around town, including Pinky G’s, the Anvil Hotel and the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. Jackson Hole Public Art also created a scavenger hunt with clues to find the murals yourself. Both the map and the scavenger hunt provide instructions in Spanish and English.
Whether people find a few accidentally or take themselves on a walking tour of all 10, Geraci said the murals are a great way to continue enjoying art even as museums and other art venues are shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the big things about public art — unlike live performances or small enclosed spaces — public art is out in the open, and as long as people are wearing masks, they can still walk around in their small family groups or pods and get to experience this,” Geraci said.
For more information go online to JHPublicArt.org.