BSU students use virtual reality to recreate Idaho artist James Castle's house

Posted at 3:06 PM, Feb 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-01 21:17:52-05

BOISE, Idaho — On Saturday, a virtual reality experience took Boise art lovers back in time.

Students at BSU created a VR simulation of Idaho artist James Castle's home just as it would have appeared decades ago.

James Castle, a deaf, self-taught Idaho artist, was well-known in the mid-20th century after his art took off in the 1950s. He lived and created his artwork in a small 120-square-foot shed, which has been preserved by the City of Boise.

“Boise is rapidly changing, it’s experiencing a lot of growth," says Makenzi Dunstan, the Cultural Sites Education and Outreach Assistant of the James Castle House. "When we have these historical structures that are still standing, it’s important to capture them the best that we possibly can while they are here.”

Students at BSU's GIMM lab recreated Castle's home using virtual reality to show what the house actually looked like in James Castle's time. There aren't too many images of Castle's house, so students used many of Castle's own drawings for reference.

“As it continues to be in a delicate state, less and less access is available to go inside of it; something like a VR experience became increasingly important so that our visitors could still experience the shed," says Makenzi Dunstan.

The VR experience shows the shed through texturing, images, and small objects to give viewers the closest experience to how the house actually was during Castle's time. The simulation gave the students the ability to show off their skills with programming interactive elements in virtual reality.

"Learning environment art is totally different from what I normally do," GIMM lab student Dakota Kimble said. "Hard surface, small props, going from that to big objects is a totally different thing."

There is also an augmented reality component for visitors of the James Castle House to try out as well, so they can put themselves in James Castle's shoes.

For more information, you can go to the James Castle House website.