It all started with a simple question: How could Paradowski contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts without adding to the noise? Apart: Posters From a Social Distance was born with the hope that we could be a part of something meaningful, even while we were apart.
In March of 2020, our office shut down and we all went home with no real idea of when we’d be back. Feeling a bit helpless in those early days, a bunch of us started making posters as a way of processing the pandemic.
Creating something to combat our confinement made us feel a lot better, so we invited others to participate, too. We asked contributors to submit a poster that reflected their experience of that strange, historic time.
We ended up with more than 150 submissions from all over the country. Topics included public service-style announcements in the tradition of the Works Progress Administration, personal expressions of individual experiences, and commentary on the many peculiarities of 2020.
Then we built an online storefront where we sold the designs as both posters and postcard packs, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
After just a few weeks we’d sold hundreds of artworks and raised thousands of dollars, but we weren’t ready to stop finding ways to connect. So we built a permanent virtual gallery to show the work and give people a space to gather, in pixels if not in person.
The museum-scale exhibit was built on top of Mozilla’s Hubs platform, and utilized an entirely open-source, web-based software stack including three.js/WebGL, the emerging WebXR spec, and on-demand Blender supercomputers for cloud rendering. Together, these made the gallery widely accessible via web and mobile browsers and in virtual reality, all while breaking new ground in terms of the scale and volume of content possible in social VR.
We unveiled it all with a virtual gallery opening that more than 550 unique visitors attended that night, including a few we didn’t invite.
— Lars Bergstrom, Google | Director of Engineering
Among the happy echoes that night as physical distance dissolved and people genuinely connected, there was a distinctly different sound: disbelief.
It was coming from a cluster of bobbing avatars with a tone of intense, focused critique, and they weren’t talking about the artwork. It was Mozilla. The Hubs platform creators were walking around inside the thing we created with Hubs. No one invited them, they just appeared like something out of Inception.
I can’t even express how cool this gallery experience was. The interactive video dome room and video wall blew me away. The whole time I felt like I was in a museum exhibit.
— Amber Osborne, Mozilla | Senior Product Marketing Strategist
As we eavesdropped, they complimented our design decisions and speculated about how anyone could squeeze that much visual fidelity and impact out of a single Hubs instance. They had never seen anything like our space, and they were as floored by the experience as we were to have them as guests. It felt like we were onto something.