Mr. Roboto

Published on: June 13th, 2014

Giant robots have invaded Boulder! They’re 16 feet tall and dedicated to inspiring and motivating residents. Artist Gary Hirsch teamed up with Boulder Digital Works to paint a mural with seven giant robots near Arapahoe Avenue on the side of an under-utilized city building.

The project is an offshoot of Hirsch’s “Joy Bots,” which are domino-sized robots “programmed” to bring joy to each individual owner. His creative artwork is known for not only being colorful, but useful. Each bot is hand-painted and designed to lift spirits while being interactive.

The Boulder mural kicks off Bot Stories, an interactive way for communities to share ideas and be creative. These bots have names such as Love Bot and Help Bot, and ask questions such as, Who do you love? What brings you joy? The mural is accompanied by a set of instructions encouraging people to use the hashtags #botstories and #botjoy to post photos and videos of their answers.

Technology and digital communication meet as the mural prompts viewers to use social media to connect with one another and the rest of the world. This is the first time that Hirsch has integrated technology with his artwork, “It’s scary and exciting,” he confesses. He’s the first to admit that he isn’t a huge tech guy, but the benefits of his latest project have been well worth the experience.

Typically with murals, “It’s painted and it’s over,” but Hirsch wanted to try something new. The advantage to colliding technology and art is that, “I get to see how it effects over time through sharing and connecting. Art is a catalyst, it’s incredibly inspiring.” Hirsch’s hope is that the mural will help people slow down and live in the moment.

“Visually, the mural is engaging, but it also makes people think about how they live their lives, they pause and think about important things, and then share.”

The questions posed by the bots are simple, but the answers require deep thinking.

“Everything I do is an experiment,” he says, “Even if people see the mural and don’t share online, but stop and think, I’ve accomplished my goal.” In our fast-paced society, Hirsch sees the benefit to slowing down.

Hirsch has created over 25,000 bots, and hopes others will continue to make more. He fully supports people “stealing” his idea and making it their own. “Art can help by inspiring people,” he says, “The bots can do good.” By spreading positive ideas, artwork can better the world. Students at Bear Creek Elementary were also inspired by Hirsch’s work and created their own version of bots. “I’m all about collaboration, and Boulder is an epicenter for this. It was a small idea and people are running with it.”

The results of the social mural have been overwhelmingly positive, and Hirsch hopes to do a similar project in another city soon. The mural will be on display for a year, allowing plenty of time for the bots to do what they do best: bring joy and inspire people.

To learn more about Hirsch’s project visit his website: botjoy.com

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