Sterling Heights

New mural in Sterling Heights offers interactive experience through augmented reality technology

What’s happening: A ribbon-cutting for a new mural in Sterling Heights was held on Tuesday, Aug. 17, culminating in a celebration of public art, outdoor activity, technology, and local business in the city.

Where it is: Ventimiglia Italian Foods in Sterling Heights.

Why it’s notable: The public art piece is the work of local artist Wendy Popko. Titled Trailblazer, the colorful mural depicts a scene typical of nearby Dodge Park, with people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, kayaking, and playing soccer. Perhaps even more notable is the mural’s use of augmented reality (AR), which transforms the painting into an interactive soccer game.

How it works: Local AR art company Electrifly developed the AR experience for Trailblazer, where visitors can scan a QR code affixed to the wall. Users download an app, which then allows them to hold up their smartphones to the mural. An interactive game unfolds as users can play soccer with the characters painted on the wall.

What they’re saying: “When you think about it, murals, like cave paintings, are the original form of communication,” says mural artist Wendy Popko. “It’s so cool to see how far this medium has come, from those rudimentary beginnings all the way to today where we’re using this unbelievable AR technology that allows visitors to really immerse themselves into the art. As a resident, I’m just incredibly proud to have been a part of this project that showcases what an innovative city Sterling Heights is, and how many amazing recreational opportunities they have to offer.”

What else they’re saying: “One of our Visioning 2030 key statements is that Sterling Heights is an active community,” says Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. “This mural was the perfect opportunity to highlight that vision, and Wendy has done a tremendous job in capturing the spirit of recreational activity throughout the City. From our magnificent trail system to the remarkable views while paddling the Clinton River and even our youth soccer, she included many different options. She even gave a little nod to Ventimiglia’s Italian heritage on the soccer jerseys. We couldn’t be more pleased, and we know our residents are going to absolutely love coming out to interact with this first-of-its-kind public art.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.