Artaos, youth artists team up with new frozen yogurt shop

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One new Taos business is mixing art into its tasty frozen venture and plans to stir the town up.

Ziggy's Frozen Yogurt, 1008-A Paseo del Pueblo Sur, will have an additional attraction in the store besides the new froyo craze that has swept the nation after its grand opening, which will happen later this week. Local artists at Artaos and eighth-grade students of the Taos Integrated School of the Arts are working together on an augmented reality mural at the shop.

"We're tackling it as a commercial business-to-business project," said Artaos artist Jason Rodriguez. "We've showed the students the creative process and all of the steps. We let them know all the intricacies of working with the clients - draft, redo, client edits and even a couple of times when we were gridlocked creatively, we let them feel that pressure."

Augmented reality is a relatively new concept to artists in New Mexico. It allows the viewer the chance to experience a graphic or animation that is not necessarily real via the lens of their smartphone or tablet. The digital phenomenon can be seen in applications such as Pokemon Go! or Snapchat by adding layered effects on a camera screen. The mural the students and Artaos have been working on will take viewers on a new experience to see moving digital images while pointing their devices at the wall. Artaos has been working with the students to develop the mural and help the students gain real-world art experience.

"The kids really had a lot of input," said Aya Trevino of Artaos. "The content is very local and very recognizable as Taos. The kids really wanted an actual image of the Taos Pueblo, nothing cartoony."

Students, while given the ability to give input on the project, largely work in conjunction with Artaos. Students learned about augmented reality from Artaos staff and were taken to the University of New Mexico Digital Media Arts program to gain hands-on green screen experience with Ziggy, the mascot of the frozen yogurt space. The friendly pug was scanned by computers and will be added into the mural as part of the augmented reality experience.

"We wanted scenes in Taos and some pop art stuff," said Ziggy's co-founder Steve Kennebeck. "They're good artists - they're very good and they've got a lot going on, and they have the kids involved."

Ziggy's is set to open early in May with a grand opening scheduled for Saturday (May 6), although the store has already been operating under a soft launch. The store will feature unique and traditional flavors of frozen yogurt. Owners Kennebeck and Bowe Ellis opened the business to promote a family atmosphere and to give Taos a unique, locally owned experience. Both owners hope the shop will be another avenue for youth in Taos and are planning on keeping business hours late in the evening to attract town night owls.

With assisting the local art community, Ziggy's staff is excited for the finished product of the mural and hopes that it will help stimulate creativity in the area. Rodriguez said the mural is just a stepping stone into a much larger market for augmented reality efforts Artaos plans to complete around town. Recently, the company took a truck filled with several small augmented reality pieces to showcase to the public with great response from the community. Artaos plans to continue its efforts with augmented reality and eventually use it as a potential teaching tool for tourism around Taos' historic districts.

"We're trying to create stronger connections by using technology with arts," said Rodriguez.

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