A Chat With Sonia Sroka on ‘The ARt of My Roots’ Program

Photo courtesy of Sonia Sroka Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of Sonia Sroka

There’s no denying that COVID-19 accelerated the need for digitized connections. The rapid advancements of technology, nonetheless, were always leading us through that path. 

Though plenty of places have opened up again and are running as normal as they can, given the situation, technology continues to play a large part. Let’s take museums, for instance. 

Programs, such as Facebook’s “The ARt of My Roots/El Arte de Mis RAices,” have surfaced where you can have an interactive experience in a museum all through your phone, tablet, or desktop.

“The ARt of My Roots/El Arte de Mis RAices” partnered with El Museo del Barrio in New York City and The Mexican Museum in San Francisco, where a virtual art gallery was created filled with AR effects. 

The gallery showcases Latinx art, including Yvette Mayorga’s “The Procession” and Justin Favela’s “Plátanos Amarillos” from El Museo, and Alfredo Arreguín’s “Frida’s Messengers” and Martín de la Cruz’s “Wixaìrika Yarn” from The Mexican Museum.

“The ARt of My Roots/El Arte de Mis RAices” lets people feel like they are inside of the museums without you moving from wherever you may be. You can also take pictures with the artwork. 

Aside from that, when you visit the gallery, you will be able to hear each artist describe their art pieces.

 

“I wanted to make sure that this effect wasn’t only created for Latinos to enjoy, but really was created for everybody to learn about our culture and to be able to share with the world,” Facebook’s vibrant head of global multicultural communications, Sonia Sroka, recently told BELatina News.

Another way to honor our culture

This program was launched during Latinx Heritage Month to further amplify the voices of our community. It was developed on Facebook’s Spark AR platform by digital innovation agency House of V and aims to honor the vas richness of Latinx art by using augmented reality (AR).

This new and more accessible medium could bring museum collections to life on Facebook and Instagram.

Bringing “ARt of My Roots” to life and partnering with Spark AR, which is the team that created the AR or the augmented reality, was done so that the Latino community could experience the art.”

Sroka, who was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States in her teen years, recognizes the value Latinx art has to offer. 

“It’s [art] a language of its own, and when we [the team] were thinking of how we can bring to life our culture, we thought, ‘let’s do it through art.’” 

“Because art doesn’t need explanations — you can find your own interpretation of what you’re seeing, and it can speak to you in many different ways than what it speaks to me.”

AR as a tool

The dialogue between an individual and a piece of art is intimate and unique. It can challenge our identity, thoughts, and perspective of the world, all while it remains sitting in a timeless beauty made possible through the lasting strokes of an artist’s brush. 

This proved to be true as Sroka immersed herself into the AR experience herself. 

Once she virtually entered The Mexican Museum, she became mesmerized by Alfredo Arreguín’s painting, “Frida’s Messengers.”

“This piece of art explained how Frida Kahlo had been through a lot of obstacles in her life and how he [the artist] had been through a lot of obstacles in the United States. And I thought that was really interesting because I think that’s something that so many of us can relate to.”

“All the different obstacles that we face as immigrants, whether you’re generation one or two in the U.S., we face plenty of challenges.”

Her fascination with Frida’s Messenger began even before she heard the story of the piece.

“I felt that it really spoke to me when I read his story, but it was interesting that without reading the story, the piece spoke to me as well.”

Another piece at El Museo caught her attention, too.

“Justin Favela did an amazing job with “Plátanos Amarillos.” And what’s so interesting about this piece is that it’s made out of piñata paper.”

Sroka reminisced about how piñatas were such a defining part of her childhood. She recalled that in El Salvador, every event had to include a piñata. In fact, events weren’t called parties; they were called piñatas. 

This goes to show that the Latinx experience can be incorporated into the smallest things and evoke memories that you might’ve forgotten about for whatever reason. 

Best of all, “The ARt of My Roots/El Arte de Mis RAices” will allow everyone to go through these emotions at any time. 

Now that many of us are still trying to navigate a world, which is still riddled with the effects of the ongoing pandemic, technology has become more than a luxury — it’s become the portal to some of our most intimate experiences.

“That’s one thing that we’ve noticed with COVID-19, it is so important for us to be connected, and our mission at Facebook is to connect people.”

If you’re wondering how you can, too, dive into this art-filled virtual space that is “The ARt of My Roots/El Arte de Mis RAices,” we’ve got you.

Follow the steps below provided by the Facebook team and share them with all your friends and family — I’m sure they’d want to enjoy the beauty of Latinx art. 

How To Access & Engage with the AR Effects

Accessing on Instagram 

You can access the effects on your mobile devices via direct links for El Museo del Barrio and The Mexican Museum. Or, you can visit each of the museum’s pages on Instagram —@elmuseo and @sfmexicanmuseum — and tap on the “Effect” tab. From there, you’ll be able to scroll through and try multiple effects. 

Accessing on Facebook 

You can access the effects on your mobile devices via direct links for El

Museo del Barrio and The Mexican Museum. Or, you can visit each of the museum’s pages on Facebook — @elmuseo and @themexicanmuseum — and click on the post demoing the effect to open in your own camera.

  • Note: If using a direct link on mobile: it will open to your effect in the Facebook camera. If on a desktop: the link will take you to a page to preview the effect and send a notification to your mobile devices to try it yourself.

How to Engage

The effect provides users with a variety of perspectives through the use of several front and back camera features.

Front camera features

The front camera focuses on personalization and social moments. Pan and pinch techniques give you control to take photos as if you were in the art gallery itself or dive in and completely be surrounded by the culturally inspired artwork’s beautiful colors and shapes.  

Back camera features

The back camera is the center stage for admiration and education. 3D gallery systems surround you with artwork using gyroscopic controls, along with detailed descriptions and audio narrations.  Once you’ve found that piece you love, you can get the ultimate close-up using plane tracking technology and view it right in your own space.