Van Gogh visits West Sacramento with engaging immersive experience – Daily Democrat

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most well-known artists in the world, who is remembered as such over 130 years after his death.

Yolo County residents now have the opportunity to observe and analyze some of van Gogh’s most famous works at a peripatetic museum. “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” is located at 31 15th St. and will be in West Sacramento through at least April.

“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” can be viewed at 31 15th Street in West Sacramento through April. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

Tickets start at $34.90 for adults and $19.90 for children. However, the experience is well worth the price, according to West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero.

“It’s important to our community to have artists be able to share their artwork and we are trying to do more of that in the city,” Guerrero said. “This venue opens up an opportunity for our residents to have close proximity to experience an artist who just has a lot of depth and history.”

Exhibition Hub created the concept in 2015 and premiered it in 2018 overseas in Europe. In 2019, Exhibition Hub began to explore bringing the concept to the United States the following year. However, those plans were delayed to 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibit initially premiered state-side in Atlanta, Georgia.

“West Sacramento was one of the areas that we really looked very closely at because of the location as the gateway to Northern California, really the heart of the region,” recalled John Zaller, the executive producer at Exhibition Hub. “As a city that really loves the arts, it was a city that we felt the exhibit would be well received and it has been.”

The museum offers a self-guided tour of van Gogh’s art. Attendees have the option to read the text alongside the various pieces of art.

The other option available is downloading the “Van Gogh Immersive USA” application onto your smartphone. The app offers narration of all the information provided, allowing attendees to spend more time visually analyzing the artwork and all its various intricacies.

“van Gogh is one of the rock stars of the art world,” Zaller proclaimed. “He has a story that many of us know very well. He has an incredibly unique style that when you see his work, you know his work. He has his own brand as well as a story as a person that many of us can relate to. He’s more than a struggling artist, he’s somebody who really wore his heart on his sleeve. He has become a very sympathetic character in the art world. His work at the time was truly revolutionary and that remains the case today.”

Before being elected mayor of West Sacramento in 2020, Guerrero served as a social worker and therapist for over 20 years. Guerrero’s previous experience helped her analyze the mental health struggles that van Gogh battled before taking his own life in 1890 at 37.

“Understanding some of what van Gogh experienced psychologically and the challenges he had personally, even in his relationships and isolation,” Guerrero explained. “Just seeing how much he was able to create momentum in his life, a movement that was able to provide that self-expression. For people to see that there are outlets to help them address some of their own personal issues.”

An everchanging bust of the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh is one of the first things you see when visiting the "Van Gogh Exhibit Sacramento: The Immersive Experience" in West Sacramento, which is open through February.  (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)
An everchanging bust of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh is one of the first things you see when visiting “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in West Sacramento, which is open through April. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

The first half of the experience is what you would expect to see at most traditional museums, with art on the walls and information alongside to elaborate further on each piece of artwork in the gallery section. There are two particular pieces of artwork in the first half of the museum that are unlike the others — but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The second half of the experience is what makes it so special and engaging: the immersivity.

First, take a step into the sunflower room. You will find yourself surrounded by beautiful sunflowers as far as the eye can see.

Sunflowers were among some of van Gogh’s most famous works, as he was very passionate about nature. For social media aficionados, the sunflower room provides an engaging backdrop for an Instagram boomerang video set to the song “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee.

The next section of the experience is the immersive room. No matter where you turn, even if you do a full 360 spin, you are surrounded by van Gogh’s art. The immersive room is filled with comfortable chairs and benches for attendees to kick back and truly enjoy the show. Guerrero described the room as “soothing and relaxing.”

Famed artist Vincent Van Gogh painted many self-portraits during his life, which can be viewed at the "Van Gogh Exhibit Sacramento: The Immersive Experience" in West Sacramento through February.  (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)
Famed artist Vincent Van Gogh painted many self-portraits during his life, which can be viewed at “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in West Sacramento through April. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

The way the various pieces of art are woven together and the transition from one to another is impressive.

“You see his actual paintings, they’re not that big, most of them,” Zaller said. “They’re a standard 2×3 painting. The vision he had and the scale he created within those small canvases is also enough to blow it up to the size of a room. That’s another reason why we selected him, his work is so impactful that it could fill an entire room if it was covering those walls.

“That is exactly what happened in that immersive room. We always tried to create an immersive room that has significant height and great volume so you can really step in as if you are apart of that painting and it wraps around you.”

The penultimate part of the experience is the art studio. After stepping out of the fascinating immersive room, attendees step into what looks like an elementary school classroom. A projector sits in the middle of the room displaying art on the screen as many crayon-colored templates hang on the walls.

The studio provides attendees with an opportunity to make their mark and use crayons to create their own interpretation of one of van Gogh’s most famous pieces of art. When finished, you can pin your artwork to the wall and put it on the projector for those following behind to observe.

“Doing your own drawing and visualizing it on the wall, I did that which was pretty cool,” Guerrero recalled. “Something that you feel like you can contribute yourself. That hands-on experience for children and adults I felt was very helpful for people to continue envisioning themselves doing art.”

The final stop in the experience will cost you some extra dough to participate but is well worth the $5. The last part of the immersive experience is virtual reality.

Throughout the museum, attendees will observe van Gogh’s most famous pieces of artwork. In the immersive room, you are surrounded by the art around you.

Now imagine taking a step into some of van Gogh’s work — which is possible with virtual reality. The VR experience offers the opportunity for attendees to stroll through eight of van Gogh’s pieces, including Starry Night Over The Rhone and Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles.

The VR experience allows you to view the center of the artwork directly in front of you while also providing the ability to look all around you at the smaller details of the artwork you may not have noticed before.

“We’re the only immersive company that offers these virtual reality components because we’ve figured out how to make virtual reality accessible to every guest who comes in,” Zaller explained. “It does become this great final moment where you come as close to inhabiting the artist as you can. It does create a full additional level of appreciation of the work and the artist themselves.”

“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” will not be in West Sacramento permanently. Stop by before the end of April when the show hits the road for another city across the USA.

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