AR Cité Blog

The Origin Story

The mural is hard to miss.  A monumental portrait of Alanis Obomsawin, it’s a striking image, adorning an entire exterior wall on Lincoln Avenue, just across the street from campus. Dawson students walk by it on a regular basis.


But how many can identify its subject?


Faculty member Reisa Levine asked herself that question while on her way to work one morning in early 2019. Thus the idea for AR Cite was born.

“Alanis Obomsawin has dedicated her life’s work to challenging colonial narratives, amplifying Indigenous stories and voices,” she says. “She’s a towering figure in Canadian cinema and the Indigenous arts, and it’s great that she’s being honoured in this way. But it occurred to me that most students don’t know much about her or her work.”


A teacher in Cinema-Communications and self-described tech nerd, Reisa is keenly interested in the rapidly developing field of Augmented Reality and had been looking for ways to integrate AR into the curriculum.


Using AR to engage students with their immediate environment


“The mural got me thinking. Why not bring AR into the classroom in a way that engages students with their immediate environment, as a tool to explore the neighbourhood and learn about its history?”


Fast forward three years and a team of Dawson students are now embarking on phase two of production on AR Cite, an app that uses the Lincoln Avenue mural and other local landmarks to trigger AR content, nurturing new understanding about Dawson and its neighbourhood. A first iteration was demonstrated on December 3 at Media Night, the end-of-semester showcase of student work.


While some students are focusing on technical aspects of the Unity app, working in partnership with KngFu Numerik, others are researching and creating narrative content, employing a range of artistic devices to revisit the history of the college itself, once home to an historic order of nuns. 


The team looks for inspiration to innovative educational initiatives like The Monuments Project, in which the artist/activist collective Movers and Shakers employs AR to retrieve suppressed histories of Black and Brown Americans, superimposing counter-narratives onto Columbus Circle and other colonial-era landmarks in New York City.


Courtesy of The Monuments Project - NYC

“AR offers us new ways to tell stories and to explore history, privileging voices that have been forgotten in mainstream history,” says Reisa. “It demands extensive experimentation and the challenges are many, on both the technical and creative fronts, but that’s all part of fun — and we’ve had great support from our Chairs, Deans and administrative staff.


AR Cité receives support from Entente Quebec Canada (ECQ), a federal/provincial partnership that funds minority language educational projects in the province. 


The team welcomes new members. Students or faculty who would like to get involved can contact Reisa at 


Alanis Obomsawin: fearless artist & advocate


Alanis Obomsawin, who lives near Dawson College, first entered the spotlight as a performer and storyteller, going on to a remarkable career at the National Film Board of Canada where she’s directed over 50 films, including landmark documentaries like Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Among her recent work is a film cycle advocating for Indigenous children’s rights and Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair, a short film that premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.  


She’s been clear in her artistic objectives from the beginning — to create space where Indigenous voices can be heard, where Indigenous people speak directly to their own experience, their own struggles.


She made her directorial debut in 1971 with this lyrical short doc, featuring the voices and artwork of Cree children at a residential school in northern Ontario. Their voices had rarely been heard in Canadian cinema up until this point — but Alanis Obamsawin would change that. An extensive selection of her work can be viewed at the NFB’s online screening room.



The Lincoln Avenue mural, unveiled in 2018, is the work of Atikamekw artist Meky Ottawa. It’s part of the Montreal’s Great Artists collection, a series of murals created with support from MU, a non-profit community arts organization whose vision is ‘to trigger a social transformation and to turn Montreal into an open-air art MUseum.”



Banner image: Students and KngFu technical team at the Lincoln mural site. Summer 2021.

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