Exploring Art in 3D: Aubrey Martinson, ’01

The leader of the nonprofit CultureVerse aims to preserve art exhibitions long after they close, working directly with artists and employing innovative technologies “so that a museum experience could be experienced any time, anywhere.”

April 13, 2022

A photo of Aubrey Martinson and her colleagues.

Executive Director Aubrey Martinson, ’01 (right), and her CultureVerse colleagues Shanley Carlton (left) and Matt Grossman attend an exhibition by artist Mike Han. Photo credit: Sarah Han.

By Ariel Berry

When Aubrey Martinson, ’01, graduated from Albion College, she dreamed of working at an art nonprofit. Double majoring in visual arts and English with a minor in art history, Martinson was well-equipped for the role, and found herself in a series of fulfilling nonprofit positions, leading to her becoming executive director of a new nonprofit, CultureVerse. The Michigan-based organization, which turns a year old in May, uses technology in innovative ways to support artists.

“It’s kind of an ongoing challenge to describe what CultureVerse does, because what we’re doing is so new,” Martinson says. “The way I have found to describe it most simply is that we are joyfully exploring what happens when we put interesting technology in front of artists.”

The company’s primary function is using 3D-scanning techniques to immortalize art installations and galleries.

“We’re trying to find ways for art and culture to cross outside of the barriers of time and space, so that a museum experience could be experienced any time, anywhere,” Martinson explains. “Much like a website would function, you could visit a virtual space and experience art or experience an exhibit.”

Martinson says she is excited to lead CultureVerse because, “Everything we’re doing is new. We’re using technology in new ways. We’re taking 3D scanners that are used in industry, and scanners that are used in real estate, and we’re utilizing them to tell the stories of artists and how they create their art; we’re utilizing them for the purposes of education. We are working with artists to figure out new ways to sell their work using virtual spaces. So we are at the forefront of this exploration.”

Examples of projects CultureVerse is working on include the Bixby collection of marionettes, collections of musical instruments from the University of Michigan and a collaboration with artist Mike Han that involves a virtual gallery to accompany an in-person exhibition.

A Template to Follow

A photo of Aubrey Martinson.

CultureVerse has been venturing into virtual reality as a new way to feature their work. Here, Martinson explores the possibilities. Photo credit: Matt Grossman.

Martinson says her experience at Albion helped shape her work and who she is today.

“The main thing my education at Albion did for me was helped shape my thinking and helped open my mind to multiple realities, let’s say, where I can understand that every person I speak to has a different perspective, and every person I speak to has a different story,” she says. “I think that was really core to my education at Albion.”

Martinson’s time spent in the Art and Art History Department and English Department prepared her for her current career. She describes her English classes as mind-bending, and says her “Visual art classes really prepared me to communicate, because for me it was less about the art I was creating, and more about the story I was telling with that work of art.” Today, Martinson uses those storytelling skills at CultureVerse, bringing to life the visions of other artists, working with them to create something special.

“It’s so fun to realize that we’re doing something that feels so natural to us,” she says. “We’re very excited to share what we’re learning as we grow, and just to continue to make an imprint on the world in this way, and I think it’s really fun to have a contribution to an up-and-coming field.”

Martinson adds, “It’s exciting to know that the work we’re doing will be a template for others to follow, that we are creating something new.”