The Van Gogh ‘immersive experience’ is colorful, fun, and relaxing — like Wonderspaces meets mom’s favorite fridge magnet

Leave the art snobs at home and bring the kids.

A version of 'Starry Night' that you can sit inside

A version of 'Starry Night' that you can sit inside

Maiken Scott / WHYY
maikenscott

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If you’re a serious art connoisseur, “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” is probably not for you.

The “experience” is kind of like Wonderspaces at the mall meets your mom’s favorite refrigerator magnet. Which is not bad! It’s just not for art snobs. But if you’re hungry for some beautiful images and stunning colors, head on over.

You walk into the Tower Theater in Upper Darby — the long-secret mystery location that appears to perhaps have been more of a last resort — and are immediately greeted by blue walls that look like they’re covered with the painter’s signature brush strokes. Friendly staff ushers in what is mostly a crowd of nice older ladies in sensible shoes. Big poster boards explain Van Gogh’s evolution as an artist, his life and technique, and what this event produced by European company Fever is all about.

A huge three-dimensional Van Gogh head awaits you in a small room, where video projections change its appearance into different iterations of the painter’s self portraits.

A giant 3-D head featured ever-changing projections

A giant 3-D head featured ever-changing projections

Maiken Scott / WHYY

Another room features a similar installation with an oversized 3D vase holding ever-morphing bouquets of different Van Gogh flowers. It’s mesmerizing, and I found myself lingering through several cycles of the changes.

Allll the sunflowers

Allll the sunflowers

Maiken Scott / WHYY

Visitors lead themselves through several rooms featuring replicas of Van Gogh’s paintings hanging on the walls. The images are sorted by theme, which is nice to see, because you don’t usually get to experience them displayed all in one place.

There are also special features, like the bedroom he so often painted. A replica is set up in real life, as in “walk right in and take a selfie.” Meticulous attention to detail really brings the “painting” to life.

Take a selfie in the famous bedroom

Take a selfie in the famous bedroom

Maiken Scott / WHYY

The main attraction is a big room with very tall ceilings where video projections take you through artfully animated, glowing versions of all the Van Gogh classics. The projections extend to the floor, sending images across your feet, and really creating that immersive feeling. You’ll be surrounded by “Sunflowers,” “Starry Night,” and his many, many self portraits.

Everything is animated, saturated with color, and it’s beautiful. Visitors can recline in comfy chairs or chill on carpets and pillows. The video display lasts about half an hour, then cycles back to the beginning.

The patterns on the walls cycle through a 30-minute display

The patterns on the walls cycle through a 30-minute display

Maiken Scott / WHYY

If you’re looking for something to break the sadness and drabness of the pandemic, this may just be it. You can chill out in the lounge chairs or on carpet and just let the Van Gogh experience wash over you. Bring the kids, they’ll love it.

Tickets, which run $40 per person, are available online for dates extending through November, with varying availability. There’s a family pass that allows you to add a second child for $18 more. Seniors, students and members of the military can get in for $27 each. You can download a free app before you go to offer extra info as you walk through the space.

The 'gift shop' was full of boxes, but there was good merch to buy

The 'gift shop' was full of boxes, but there was good merch to buy

Maiken Scott / WHYY

Once you’re done, you exit through the gift shop — which looks like it was seriously set up in a hurry, unopened boxes and all, and that’s it. Be sure to grab a refrigerator magnet!

The man was a self-portrait fiend

The man was a self-portrait fiend

Maiken Scott / WHYY
People of all ages attend the show

People of all ages attend the show

Maiken Scott / WHYY
Poster boards help explain the displays

Poster boards help explain the displays

Maiken Scott / WHYY
A Van Gogh with added dimension

A Van Gogh with added dimension

Maiken Scott / WHYY
A Van Gogh with added dimension

A Van Gogh with added dimension

Maiken Scott / WHYY

 

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