Immersed in Van Gogh

June 07, 2022
Once at Vacation Bible School—yes, I went to Vacation Bible School, once and only once—anyway, once at Vacation Bible School when I was 9 years old, we were asked a strange question: if we could be any other person in the world for one day, who would we want to be? Stunned, I raised my hand and stated very clearly that my parents did not allow me to fantasize about things that could not happen, but if I did, I would want to be Gloria Vanderbilt because she was a strong woman with a great head of hair, and I liked denim. I was told I was excused from the exercise and later that day, told I was excused from the rest of Vacation Bible School.

Living as someone else just didn’t seem like a smart thing to me. I had everything: I was smart, I was funny, I had good hair, I wore Garanimals. That feeling stayed with me my whole life, until I recently walked into the traveling, immersive adventure celebrating artistic master Vincent van Gogh. The exhibit has been traveling and active since 2017 and is produced by tech masters Exhibition Hub and Fever.

Unlike most walking museum exhibits, where you get drowned in audio, but are shown too little visual information and too little entering visual elements, this immersive journey keeps the information light and digestible, and keeps you moving along at a comfortable pace with a dynamic payoff.

You won’t just learn about the artist’s life through Virtual Reality technology—you will get to live his life for 10 minutes. You wake up in his famed bedroom and step out into the village that was the inspiration for so many of his paintings. Then stroll along the streets and see the world just as Van Gogh would have seen it.

Bring the kids because this isn’t a stuffy, adult trip. Every exhibit is more than kid-friendly: its kid-oriented. Walk into his paintings as they are presented in 3D rooms large enough for adults to enter. The create-your-own Van Gogh section is real draw for kids, pun intended. You get to create your own artwork inspired by your journey through the exhibit, after which your creation is projected onto the walls amongst van Gogh’s creations.

The real deal is the 20,000 square foot visual world created on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the Scottish Rite Temple at 619 Carondelet St. Sit back in comfy chairs, lounge on blankets, or just stand there as the room comes to life and you get physically covered with the artist’s works. Flashing and moving before your eyes, The Starry Night comes alive with flickering lights in the town. Cherry blossoms blow in the wind, filling the air with petals, and sunflowers grow from the floor around your feet and up your legs. It’s the kind of thing you’ll talk about for years to come. The exhibit takes about an hour, but you can spend as long as you want moving in and out of Vincent van Gogh’s life.

A quaint gift shop concludes your visit with some interesting treasures. Be sure to pick up the exhibit’s soundtrack because its literally like taking the exhibit home with you. It’s also a soothing way to end the day on those days you wish you were someone else.

Check for current running days and times.