This month, the Depot Art Center’s Bliss Hall will be transformed into an immersive, interactive exhibit aptly titled “Submerged in Bliss.” It is the latest project from three local artists, Kim Keith, the executive director of Steamboat Creates, Jennifer Grathwohl and Ben Wood.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that is an immersive experience,” says Grathwohl. “Not just something you look at, but where the art is all around you and you’re in it.”
The trio chose an immersive exhibition because of their growing participation in the ‘experience economy’, explains Keith. After meeting the founders of the popular immersive art and installation exhibits “Meow Wolf” at a Creative Industries Summit, Keith was inspired to create something similar.
“People have a desire to experience creativity,” she said. “Immersive experiences provide personal enrichment and connection through shared experiences.”
Wood, a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School, has been to all three Meow Wolf locations, in Denver, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe. He used resources and ideas from those exhibits to work with Keith and Grathwohl to create a similar, smaller, on-site experience.
“We create the feeling that you’re in some kind of indoor reality and the creativity goes behind the art,” Wood said. “When people are there, I imagine they see new ideas for themselves. It’s not meant to look cool or be pretty, but I expect people to come up with their own ideas and implement them. It can be a whole chain.”
The exhibition is divided into four mini-rooms that visitors can walk through. Each room has a different theme; the first is a forest full of trees that Wood has made from cardboard and other materials; the second room is made in strong black and white contrasts; the third is known as the cloud room — with a swing hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room — and the fourth is the “stuffy room,” filled with just under 1,000 stuffed animals.
“We wanted it to be as weird and wild as some of the other exhibits we’ve seen, but also to make it approachable,” Grathwohl said.
In a selfie-obsessed culture, immersive exhibits often lead to increased social media interaction and content sharing, Grathwohl noted.
“We don’t have anything like that here in Steamboat,” she said. “I’m curious what people will think about it. We’re not necessarily trying to convey anything, but we’re definitely trying to create an atmosphere.”
Tickets are available for the exhibit and tickets can be purchased for $10 at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/submerged-in-bliss-tickets-320864814297?aff=efbneb
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editors.