Adobe Superheroes Make Magic at the de Youngsters Art Party
For the sixth year, Adobe superheroes blended creativity and technology into a special Adobe magic — helping children at the de Young Museum in San Francisco enjoy the museum’s exhibitions in a unique and exciting way. And this year, they helped the “de Youngsters” become superheroes themselves.
On the evening of January 24, families from the San Francisco area attended the 7th annual de Youngsters Art Party — an event that raises money for children’s arts programs at the museum while helping create lifelong art lovers. Adobe worked with the museum to design a hands-on, fun experience for the children.
“One of our top priorities is to reach out to a growing audience of families with children and introduce them to the museum,” said Christa Sundell, the de Young’s director of corporate partnerships. “We try to do that in creative, engaging ways — with both our special exhibits and permanent collection. In partnership with Adobe and others, the Art Party helps us achieve that.”
On the Adobe side, the pro-bono group is organized by the design team, but it draws in people from across the company. This year’s participants included Deb Aoki, Marisa Bazan, Chaitrali Bhide, Ben Farrell, Kelly Hurlburt, Geoff Oxholm, Linda Ma, and Uriel Zarate. Lisa Pedee coordinated the effort.
Children become superheroes
“This year’s installation highlighted creativity across the analog and digital domains,” Lisa said.
Children colored in a superhero costume on paper and then stood in front of a camera with a comic book-style San Francisco skyline on a screen behind them. The Adobe team scanned their images, and the kids magically appeared as their superhero selves in their unique costume creation.
Each participant received a photo print and a digital copy featuring four of their best power poses. The photos also appeared on large screens near the entrance to the museum for everyone to enjoy.
“It was such an intuitive and fun process — no instructions needed, a delightful experience,” Geoff said.
“I loved seeing the kids light up when they stepped in front of a screen and their drawings were projected onto their bodies,” Uriel said. “My favorite instance of this was a little boy who was pretty shy at first—but as soon as he took all four pics, he ran back to the table to make another design.”
The Adobe team came up with the superhero theme to tie in loosely to the de Young exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983.”
Art meets technology
As in past years, the Adobe team developed a concept for the experience and then worked with de Young staff to refine it.
“We typically meet with the designers up to a year ahead of the Art Party, to discuss the special exhibition that will be on display during the event,” said Elizabeth Hundt, associate director of Special Events at the de Young. “That’s what helps spark the creativity with the designers. It lets them latch on to some of the exhibition’s ideas and themes and distill them down into a format that both highlights Adobe creativity and speaks to the exhibition.”
Chaitrali particularly enjoyed working with everyone, building on each other’s ideas, to arrive at the final concept. She also noted how much work goes into what ended up being a relatively quick experience for the children.
“Over the course of several months, we worked to develop the idea, refine the technology, and work out all the kinks — and the children were awed by how magical it all was,” she said. “It made me think about when you cook a special meal and put your heart and soul into it — the meal is over quickly, but the good memories remain. It’s bittersweet.”
“In the same way that we’re grateful to Adobe for bringing our collection alive, we also hope that we’re a platform for Adobe to show its evolving technology,” said Christa.
“The children get to be test subjects — the first to engage with the technology,” Elizabeth said. “For some, it was the first time they’d played with any sort of augmented reality or that they’d brought their own art alive through this way. We love that Adobe’s Art Party activation gives them an opportunity to spark their imagination and creativity — from both artistic and technical perspectives.”
This year’s de Youngsters project was very much in the spirit of Adobe’s unique and expressive take on using 2D art in mixed reality environments, according to Ben.
“We explored creating 2D assets and putting them in the real world — not just any 2D artwork, but something created just seconds before by the kids,” he said. “And while we enabled a unique aesthetic, it worked exceptionally well as a one-off project done in a short time. I think these types of exploration really move us forward as a company.”
A community effort
The Adobe team enjoys all aspects of being involved with the Art Party.
“One of my favorite parts about a pro-bono opportunity like this is that I get to work with colleagues whom I don’t work with regularly,” Kelly said. “Also, I like having a prompt for illustration — it’s a hobby in my free time, and I sometimes struggle to come up with my own prompts, so this project was great for me.” (Kelly designed the San Francisco backdrop.)
She also appreciates that Adobe offers many ways to give back to the community.
“It’s very easy to get involved, and we can choose from a range of projects from an event that’s just a few hours to a longer commitment like this one,” she said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Geoff appreciates that, too.
“I’m proud to work at a company that inspires children with art — proud to have a role where we can give back to one of the premier art institutes in our city,” he said.
Chaitrali also enjoyed the camaraderie on the evening of the event.
“It was great to work with others outside Adobe,” she said. “It felt like a community — everyone coming together to provide an amazing experience for the children.”And in the end, that’s what it’s about: the children.
“We’re so grateful for the Adobe team,” Christa said. “They come to us with a fresh set of eyes, and they’re able to translate the work in our collection and the themes in our exhibitions into these incredibly creative activations that are kid friendly, age appropriate, and lighthearted.
“We believe that lays the groundwork for the children to access our art and continue to grow as they visit the museum and engage with art on a continual basis,” she added. “And we owe that to the creative genius of the team we work with at Adobe.”
All photos courtesy of Myleen Hollero.