Last week, I had a staring contest with an artist who died more than a century ago.
When my parents told me we were going to see the immersive Vincent van Gogh experience at 6240 Glenwood Ave for Mother’s Day, I had no idea what to expect. From the moment we walked in the door, though, the experience was mesmerizing.
The first thing I laid eyes on—or rather, made eye contact with—was a huge 3D sculpture of the face of Vincent van Gogh. The soft, shifting lights projected onto the statue gave it the appearance of being alive, and I couldn’t help but stand there in awe. (Spoiler: I lost the staring contest.)
The first room provided a thorough introduction to Vincent van Gogh’s life, from his childhood and early years onward. These descriptions went deeper than the typical biography, with little-known facts about the famous ear incident and in-depth explanations of the relationships he held during his life. Viewers can marvel at a variety of canvas prints of his artwork, with some paintings even made into 3D rooms where visitors can literally sit inside one of his paintings.
Next came the exhibit’s namesake: the immersive room. It was a huge, open space with a short film of his artwork—”Starry Night” and “Sunflowers,” among many others—and illustrations projected onto the walls, floor, and ceiling. Viewers were comfortably leaning back in chairs, sitting in small groups on the floor, or even laying down on pillows as they listened to the symphonic music and took in the 35-minute presentation.
“There’s a feeling of familiarity when you step into that 10,000 square foot immersive room that I think really has an impact,” says John Zaller, the executive producer of Exhibition Hub, the company that created the exhibit.
After exiting the immersive room, the next room offers a chance for the viewer to become the artist, with a room full of art materials and van Gogh coloring sheets that attendees can decorate to their heart’s content.
To top it off, the final room wrapped up the experience with an extra surprise gallery that Zaller describes as “the icing on the cake.” (That’s all we’ll say, for now.)
As for the price of the cake: tickets for this exhibit cost $34.90 for adults and $19.90 for children ages 4-12, plus an option for family and group bundle deals. Hours run from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends, with time slots available to book every half hour. Availability may be low during summer months, so make sure to book your visit ahead of time on the exhibit’s website.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has traveled everywhere from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region, and has come to countless cities including New York and Miami before settling in Raleigh at a building that has played host to a movie theater, then two fitness centers.
Given the positive response that the exhibit has already received, the business hopes to stay in Raleigh through the summer and into the foreseeable future, Zaller says.
“Raleigh is a market full of very smart people,” Zaller says. “It’s got a huge affinity for the arts and for culture. We wanted to bring this experience to Raleigh to celebrate its cultural base and to add to the cultural fabric of the city.”
Ultimately, this experience can be meaningful for anyone from a 3-year-old to a 93-year-old, Zaller believes.
“That’s really what they take away, is that one-on-one connection with van Gogh and his life, as well as an inspiration to engage more with the arts,” Zaller says. “All in all, it really is this great day out that’s multi-generational, where you’re experiencing art and culture right in the heart of Raleigh.”
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
Comment on this story at [email protected].