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Prepare to be charmed with the virtual twin of a unique faux French street art gallery

With Matterport digital twins, Martello Alley gallery offers virtual visitors a one of a kind gallery experience

Art, according to David Dossett, the artist and owner of Martello Alley, doesn’t exist solely in a gallery. Which is why he used a digital twin to bring this charming experience across Canada. We caught up with David Dossett to learn more about this fascinating, and charming, space for artists and art appreciators. 

Martello Alley 4

What inspired the 3D capture of this space?

Initially, I had not intended to create a digital walkthrough of Martello Alley. We had been doing very well since July 2015 when I renovated this space and the empty store. People came from far away: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York state, and beyond to see this quaint, quirky French-themed art alley, courtyard, and gallery in downtown Kingston, Ontario. 

Then the pandemic hit. We went through two long and economically devastating lockdowns and were bracing for the third. We tried virtual video tours, scavenger hunts, contests, and giveaways, all with limited success. That is when I decided to look at Matterport.

To be honest, I expected the cost to be prohibitive. But I was shocked at how affordable and how easy it was. And as soon as our virtual shops were live we were covered by many local media outlets. One of the networks, CTV, picked up the story and carried it across Canada. Looking back, my only regret is that I had not done this sooner.

What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?

At Martello Alley, our gallery space is unusual because it’s an outdoor and indoor space and is open all year. It’s bright and colorful. The gallery consists of an alleyway from the street which leads to a courtyard and, finally, an indoor gallery. The alley features panels that resemble windows and doors, so it looks like a narrow French street, complete with faux-French business signs including “cordonnerie” and “patisserie.”

Martello Alley 1

The panels are opened and closed daily, and when they are open, they reveal our prints and reproductions which are for sale outside, similar to old Québec’s Rue du Trésor, or like art alleyways in France where artists display their work on the street. Beyond the alleyway is a beautiful courtyard which serves as a patio in the summer. In the courtyard, you’ll find two large steel structures: a lighthouse and a buoy. They’re not real — just facsimiles. I designed them to conceal the waste and recycling as well as the grease trap for the restaurant next door.

What is also unique is that because of the nature of the space, the gallery can be open all year - even when it rains or snows. The prints for sale in the alleyway are protected because they are in plastic sleeves and the alleyway is covered. The art in the courtyard is painted on upcycled wood panels and window screens with house paint, so it is weatherproof and waterproof. And the art inside is, well, inside, so there is no issue with the weather.

That’s what makes Martello Alley so special: it is beautiful no matter what the season or the weather. In the summer the courtyard is filled with flowers and people enjoying tea and scones. In the fall the ivy outside turns red and gold. When it rains it brings out the vibrant colors, especially the deep red and amber of the faux cobbled walkway. And in the winter a blanket of snow creates a magical French winter village.

Martello Alley 2

As soon as the first snowfall came I decided to capture, inside and out, the entire space. And for maximum impact, I captured it at night, with the snow on the ground and the trees and railings all lit up. When visitors tour our digital twin they can experience the magic of Martello Alley on a winter’s night. They can even “climb” the stairs and look down on the beautiful courtyard all lit up.

For many, winter is a time to stay indoors. What I hope visitors of the virtual tour see in Martello Alley in the winter is that joie de vivre that you would experience in old Québec, especially during Carnaval. That is: winter is not something to hide from; it’s here and it should be something to enjoy – to celebrate. As Gilles Vigneault put it: “Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays c'est l'hiver” (my country is not a country - it’s the winter).

What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring your 3D tour?

We hope that after seeing the 3D tour they will be inspired to visit. And we want them to see that our galleries are inviting and inclusive retail stores that sell local art and operate as collectives. But more than that, they’re a destination when visitors come to our city. We don’t just sell art — we tell our story and the stories of our city. 

The 3D tour helps us to tell visitors our story: Art is not just something inside a gallery — it’s everywhere, and it’s transformative. It changes people and places for the better. Art can turn a bleak space into a wonderful and inspiring place.

Martello Alley 3

What are the benefits of Matterport digital twins?

Matterport digital twin technology helps us to tell visitors our story of art. And there is no better way to convey that message - no better way to let everyone experience that no matter where they are, than by using this technology.

Do you have any plans to capture more 3D experiences?

Because much of what we display is original artwork, we will need to refresh the digital twin to reflect what is currently available for sale. We will continue to scan both Martello Alley and Martello on Brock several times each year. 

In addition to that, we will be using our Matterport spaces to create virtual tours of points of interest, as well as tours of the annual ice art show, Froid’Art - Art on Ice, which we started in 2015 and hold every winter. Artwork that has been painted on plexiglas is frozen in 300 lb blocks of crystal clear ice and lit from below. For a summary of our event from 2015, our first year:

The process to make the 300 lb ice art blocks is expensive and highly-involved — you can get a glimpse of it here:

Anything else you would like to add?

Matterport is surprisingly affordable and a very robust platform. I’m absolutely delighted with the product. Since we introduced it in the winter of 2021, it has really increased our visibility, and the sales have more than paid the cost of putting our shops online. I cannot say enough about the product and there are so many things that I will be doing with it in the future.


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