Juneteenth Hack brings Black artists together with augmented-reality tech


A group of tech-driven artists from Oakland kicked off their inaugural Juneteenth hackathon this week, a tech event aimed at changing the way art is discovered and seen in their communities through a 21st century lens.

One local muralist is finding a new path to present his work.

It’s dusk after a long day at work. Timothy B is in a space where a spray of paint is adding another stroke of creativity to his mural.  

“When you’re on the wall, nothing behind me, nothing around me matters as much as what I’m doing in front of me,” the artist explained. 

The Oakland muralist says his trees are a reminder of damage done in the past, and a call to fix what’s broken. 

“Let me go and bring these trees to life more than you know what we know it to be,” said Timothy B. 

His latest work will become a canvas for technologists converging in Oakland for the Juneteenth Hack. 

Using augmented reality tools and apps, the Oakland native’s mural at Oakland International High School, will take on a new shape during the event.  

“I want people to be fully immersed with the piece, even if it’s through their phone. What would that look like, right?” asked Timothy B. 

The Juneteenth Hackathon is using augmented reality to transform how art is accessed.

Damien McDuffie is the founder of Black Terminus, an app he designed to blend tech and art.  He collaborated with Timothy B in 2020 to present their first augmented reality mural of the founding fathers of the Black Panthers. 

“You can look around our city and you won’t see any representation of them,” said McDuffie. 

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale can be seen across the street from the Oakland Police Department.

McDuffie has added historical context with speeches and audio that can be accessed by pointing a phone while passing by. 

“You’ve known how to do this for a while. Now let’s bring that over here and introduce it in another way,” said McDuffie. 

Newton and Seale suddenly “come to life.” It’s one example of introducing a community of artists to a platform where strokes of digital creativity can be added. 

“We want more people to be able to take on this and tell their stories from their perspective and create new ways of how we tell stories in AR,” said McDuffie. 

It’s one step in bringing more black entrepreneurs, visionaries, and artists closer to the future of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and tech.

“When you open up tech through art, you also open up the opportunity for diversity in the space,” said McDuffie.

Timothy B will be one of the artists attending the Juneteenth Hackathon, expanding possibilities to bring more life and eyes to see his message through his work, amplified by technology. 

“Sometimes it’s freestyle. It comes from within,” said Timothy B. 

Working with galleries and museums, McDuffie says adding digital elements to physical art increases its value and likelihood of it selling.

Before tinkering with augmented reality art, his best work sold for $250. But after adding elements of AR to his pieces, McDuffie says some pieces have sold for ten times that amount. 

The hackathon runs through Sunday. More information on how to participate is available on the Juneteenth Hack website. 



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