MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County-based nonprofit Voices of the Children released an augmented reality app Monday to introduce communities around the world to its cross-cultural art project, Rachel’s heART.

The project culminated in the creation of three murals, which are on display in Geneva, Switzerland; Azraq, Jordan; and Mount Vernon.

Using the Voices of the Children Discovery app, people in these cities will be able to look deeper into the unique murals that connect them. It simply requires a visit.

When the app is opened in the correct location in Mount Vernon — facing the north wall of Mount Vernon City Hall — a vine-covered augmented reality will ensue. Explore the surrounding ground to find a wishing well, where a collection of poems and visuals float.

Community members may select artifacts to learn more about them. Along with texts, people may listen to the poems read by the youths themselves, in their original or translated versions. Videos are also available for viewing.

“This is just the beginning,” said Aaron Wagner, the organization’s founder and executive director. “What we’re hoping is that people go down to City Hall, interact with the app and send us feedback on it.”

The months-long project began with a prompt, delivered to two small groups of teens at the Ecolint International School in Geneva and a Syrian refugee camp in Azraq. The prompt asked: What is home?

Resulting poems from each youth were traded with a partner in the other country, which was then charged with interpreting the poem into visuals.

Professional artists collected these artifacts and combined them to create two murals, which are displayed in both cities.

Because a larger number participated in Skagit County — 600 — students were able to interpret poems sent from the two international groups into collages, but were not involved in the more intimate exchange.

These collages were displayed in June as banners in Jasper Gates Park and Tri-Dee Arts. The mural displayed in downtown Mount Vernon is a combination of the two in Geneva and Azraq created by American artist {span}Kevin Hartman.

Though the children have been amazed by the app, Wagner said it’s not really aimed toward them. It’s for the communities the children belong to — to be introduced to the same themes of oneness and compassion that the children have been.

“The kids in Geneva are extremely privileged kids, and the kids in Jordan are refugees. On the surface they couldn’t be more different,” Wagner said. “But they realized quicker than most that the differences aren’t negative — they’re really cool and exciting differences. It sort of destroyed the concept of the other.”

Wagner said the organization hopes to add murals each year, as Rachel’s heART continues.

— Reporter Zoe Deal: 360-416-2139, zdeal@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Zoe_SVH

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