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‘What Once Was’ project brings Austin a piece of the past – Spectrum News (MAR. 26, 2022)

What is What Once Was?

Over the past five years, E4 Youth has spearheaded a coalition of for-profit and nonprofit partners that leverages the power of storytelling to promote digital skills and cultural literacy throughout the community. Creative Leadership Academy members earn employment as Digital Docents that collect oral histories of Austin’s rapidly vanishing communities of color from gentrified Austin locations and integrate their stories into virtual and augmented reality experiences. These experiences will live on our immersive storytelling platform What Once Was (WOW).

WOW is a location-based mixed reality (AR/VR) engine that builds community through storytelling and Web 3.0 technologies. It facilitates in person and remote tours of black and brown historic locations and allows users to earn NFT digital badges that qualify them for community perks and rewards. The WOW platform and the curriculum associated with it not only support the exploration and preservation of Austin’s vanishing cultures among underserved youth, it also provides authentic employee engagement opportunities where newcomers can learn about the city and engage with people of color in more equitable ways.   

In the coming year, E4 Youth will expand WOW as we work with local employers and sister nonprofits Six Square, Creative Action, Latinitas, and others to help 1000 K-12 youth learn digital skills and participate in WOW research and content creation projects. View samples of the WOW prototype at  

More What Once Was Press:

E4 Youth confronts gentrification in East Austin with virtual, augmented reality – Austin American Statesman (FEB 25 2022)

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SXSW 2022: E4 Youth project looks at East Austin communities (Mar 14 2022) 

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Austin-Based Artist Combats Gentrification With Immersive AR Experience at SXSW – Adweek (MAR 11 2022)

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