Immersive Van Gogh exhibit comes to Detroit | Arts & Entertainment

Wayne State students and alumni from the College of Fine Performing and Communication Arts are finding ways to practice their trade this summer at the “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Detroit.”

The exhibit includes projected moving images displaying some of Van Gogh’s most notable paintings such as The Bedroom, Sunflowers, and The Yellow House, projected across 500,000 square-feet.

The projections cover the walls and floors of two exhibit rooms to fully immerse visitors in Van Gogh’s paintings, Venue Manager Matt Karr said.

“To be able to bring an experience like this—on this scale—with this level of professionalism, to Detroit, is a dream. It’s fantastic,” he said.

Located in the Historic Harmonie Club, which first opened in 1894 on W Grand River Avenue, the exhibit was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the exhibit has employed over 80 people with creative backgrounds, including WSU student Julia Ciccone.

Ciccone, a film and media studies major, started working at the exhibit when it opened in May.

“The experience has been fun…it’s been a very interesting thing to be a part of because we haven’t really had anything like this here,” Ciccone said.

The exhibit travels between cities across the US and Canada, giving creative people the opportunity to work with the immersive exhibit, according to its website.

Karr said having the immersive exhibit in Detroit has introduced him to local artists he’s been able to work with.

“Everybody here is creative in their own different way. We have so many different artists, or sketchers, or painters, and really their enthusiasm for not only their own art creations but other people’s art is really what makes it such a fun team to be around,” Karr said.

Theater alumni Melissa Figliuolo works at the exhibit and said the best part of the job is the community they have created while working there.

“I love the people I work with,” Figliuolo said. “All of us are artsy in some way, so we all have at least one thing in common.”

Karr said WSU students and alumni have brought more welcoming faces to the immersive exhibit that have benefited the overall visitor experience.

“I think the students from Wayne State feel very comfortable in this (downtown) environment and that really makes a huge difference because if people are coming downtown and they don’t spend a lot of time down here, they sort of get to be the youthful face to encourage people to branch out of their comfort zone,” Karr said.

The exhibit was originally planned to be offered through August but was extended to October 30 due to the high demand for tickets, according to its website.

Ciccone said she’s enjoyed answering visitors’ questions about Van Gogh and downtown Detroit.

“It’s exciting to meet new people, answer their questions, and have them be interested in what you’re doing here,” Ciccone said. “A lot of people who are coming to see the show are not from Detroit so it’s nice to bring people here and get to share that part with people.”

Figiuolo said there is a healthy community among the employees and is planning to continue working with the Immersive Lighthouse company after the Van Gogh exhibit because working there has been beneficial, not only for the experience but for the friendships as well.

“We all get along and it creates a great atmosphere,” Figiuolo said. “I’m always happy going into work because I know my co-workers are automatically going to brighten my day.”

Lighthouse Immersive, an Ontario-based immersive art company, will utilize the current space for other immersive exhibits in the next three years, including an immersive show on King Tut, Karr said.

Shawntay Lewis is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The South End. You can be reached at [email protected]

Cover photo by Shawntay Lewis.

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