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Niverville Entrepreneur Launches Virtual Art Gallery

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360N Crop
Rory Hiebert helps new-to-VR users explore his online art gallery. Kaeleb Visram, Mast Creative

Niverville entrepreneur Rory Hiebert’s vision goes beyond reality. “Virtual” isn’t really the right word for his new venture, which he describes as a 3D art experience. Indeed, there is nothing virtual about it.

Art is many things to many people, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic one thing it has not been is accessible.

ThreeSixty Nation is an online marketplace and gallery designed to help creative individuals share their artistry through the medium of virtual reality (VR). VR employs a computer or television setup combined with a set of specialized goggles to simulate an audio/visual experience for the user. The effect is that someone feels like they’re in a completely different space from the room they’re actually in.

VR has been steadily growing in popularity throughout the entertainment, education, and corporate sectors for its immersive qualities.

Since people were finding it more difficult than ever to go into real-life art galleries, Hiebert saw the potential in bringing art “out” of these traditional spaces.

To increase awareness of VR and give the public an opportunity to try it out, Hiebert organized a pop-up VR art gallery on April 24 at the Public Brewhouse and Gallery in Steinbach.

“[This] was the launch of the 360n Gallery with my project, ThreeSixty Nation,” says Hiebert. “It was an incredible experience and was received really well by all who attended.”

Hiebert says that most of the people at the open house had never tried virtual reality before, so watching their first reactions to VR was greatly rewarding.

“The 360n gallery can now be viewed online, but to see its true potential as an immersive experience it really needs to be viewed in a VR headset,” he says. “That is where the 360n pop-up galleries are going to be a great opportunity for people to view the gallery’s true potential. Each pop-up gallery will have several VR experiences available for people to try out and see the gallery and the artworks being promoted.”

When viewed online on a computer or in a virtual reality headset, the user can enter the gallery and use controls to walk around. Users can observe a seating area and “walk” right up to walls where art is hung, with descriptions next to them, just like in a real art gallery.

An especially unique feature are 3D “spheres” which the user can walk into. Inside, the user finds themselves in a sort of globe with a 360-degree panoramic photo spread out all around them.

Hiebert first developed the idea to use 360-degree video and photography to promote artists and creativity back in 2016.

“Unfortunately, after beginning the first few projects, my camera was stolen,” Hiebert explains. “Which led to me shelving the project. Since then, the market in virtual reality has been developing at an exponential rate, and I recently decided to pick the project back up again to begin pursuing a formal career as an emerging artist, curator, and creative producer. I am now partnering with artists that I know and hold in high esteem to begin curating and promoting their work.”

So far Hiebert is launching the project independently, though he is organizing a variety of crowdfunding initiatives to generate additional support.

“I am bootstrapping the costs involved in programming and developing a VR platform, which I seek to launch on Steam, Oculus, and other VR platforms,” he says. “And each pop-up gallery and event will provide an opportunity to crowdfund for the goals of ThreeSixty Nation, with funds going directly towards the artists involved, and to contribute to the cost of developing the future platform of the 360n Gallery.”

ThreeSixty Nation will host pop-up galleries throughout the summer. Hiebert is welcoming any interested venues, businesses, and groups to consider hosting a 360n pop-up gallery and sponsor events to help promote the work by local artists.

Local artists are also invited to connect with Hiebert about the possibility of showcasing their work online.

“ThreeSixty Nation will be spending the next few months creating new content for the 360n Gallery,” Hiebert says. “There is currently an open call for artists on our website to submit an application to be included in new gallery features. I will be partnering with various groups of artists to collaborate with and develop different types of 360 video and photography projects to feature in the 360n Gallery. These artist features will then have pop-up galleries at different venues to share and showcase the works created.”

Importance of Art

Art has always been important to Hiebert, who enjoys music and graphic technology.

“As an audio engineer, graphic designer, and creative producer, I have always found fulfillment in designing projects and running events, whether for music, art, business, or speaking engagements,” says Hiebert. “Using different technologies as tools to create marketing materials and content to be shared has been a passion of mine ever since I first got my hands on our family’s first computer back in the 90s.”

Opening a brick-and-mortar gallery was never in Hiebert’s plans, but combining art, technology, and business was. That said, Hiebert never considered himself destined to be a business owner.

“For many years I have worked as a creative producer as a side gig, but I never considered myself much of an entrepreneur,” says Hiebert. “I recently realized that I had been limiting myself in my potential… I have come to believe that anyone utilizing their talents or skills in pursuit of any type of project or endeavour is a natural entrepreneur.”

Hiebert believes that creatives shouldn’t count themselves out of becoming meaningful contributors in the business world. Anyone thinking about pursuing what they love, he says, should remain sensitive to possible partnerships that may come their way.

“It’s just a matter of finding the right market or opportunity to share their vision or work,” says Hiebert. “With ThreeSixty Nation, I hope to be able to collaborate with other artists and creative individuals in partnering towards expanding our sphere of influence and reach new opportunities and potential in the art industry, together in a collective way.”

For more information

The pop-up VR gallery presented on April 24 is now available now to view online. Future event tickets and information can be found on the ThreeSixty Nation website: https://threesixtynation.space...

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