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Harvard, Allston Students to Create Augmented Reality Mural

Muralist Paul Deo will collaborate with local high schoolers and Harvard students to create an augmented reality mural at the Harvard Ed Portal in Allston.

The exhibit will be installed on one of the external walls of the Ed Portal during Arts First week in April. The Portal, which is located at 224 Western Ave., is a service initiative from the University that offers education, arts, wellness, and professional development workshops to Boston residents.

Paul Deo, a mixed-media artist who specializes in set designs and city murals, has previously worked on Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and Planet Harlem, a mural in Central Harlem. Deo’s work at Harvard is co-sponsored by the Office for the Arts and the Ed Portal.

Deo said the goal of the mural is to “uplift and celebrate” Allston residents.

“The mural is going to have aspects of what the students and what the residents—I’ll open it up to the community of Allston residents—what they will like to see and envision for Allston,” he said. “I think it represents that people care—that they care enough to have this groundbreaking, beautiful mural right there in Allston.”

Deo said he hopes to incorporate augmented reality—technologies which fuse animations and sound—into his two-dimensional mural.

Deo consulted Harvard and Allston students to develop a plan for the exhibit. According to Deo, Allston high school students told him they wanted the mural to have “bright colors” during an October 2017 meeting.

“Something that tells how great Allston is, how great of a place it is to live. They really wanted something positive and uplifting that they could take pride in and visit with their family members and friends and go through that experience together,” Deo said.

In a workshop last Friday, Harvard students decided to make the theme revolve around a sustainable, futuristic Allston. The students proposed asking Allston residents to recite a poem by Washington Allston, the namesake of the neighborhood, as part of the mural. Students also suggested including images of a flying MBTA subway line, the Charles River, and butterflies.

Though Allston high school students were supposed to participate in the workshop, only one attended.

“He [the high school student] said they had a whole lot of things going on, so I think they still want to remain involved through input and through the emails and connections. They seem really excited about it,” Deo said. “The interaction between the Harvard students and the Allston high schoolers is crucial.”

Moving forward, Deo said he plans to finalize the two-dimensional design and the augmented reality animations.

“I really want to uplift with my skills—to uplift and make people feel better about where they are and who they are,” Deo said. “I’m trying to break through that second dimension to heal the viewer and calm them. AR [Augmented reality] offers them that opportunity.”

—Staff writer Truelian Lee can be reached at truelian.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @truelian_lee.

—Staff writer Jacqueline P. Patel can be reached at jacqueline.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @jppatel99.

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