Here we Van Gogh: Immersive Experience opens at Kirkwood’s Pullman YardAn image from “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” at Pullman Yards in Kirkwood on May 25, 2021. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Atlanta, GA — Vincent Van Gogh and his artwork have come to life at the Van Gogh immersive experience at Pratt Pullman Yard in Kirkwood. Decaturish toured the exhibit on Tuesday, May 25. The exhibit provides history about Van Gogh, his life and his art while also putting guests in the middle of his work.
“I’ve always been a bit of a fan of larger-than-life projection for a long, long time,” said Mario Iacampo, CEO of Exhibition Hub and producer of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.”
Iacampo went to a show in southern France in a mine and after seeing that show, he thought there was an opportunity for a new show. He and his team quickly settled on Van Gogh.
“One, his art is exceptional. It’s one-of-a-kind,” Iacampo said. “You can’t really say he was influenced by someone or he was part of a trend or created a trend. He was like him.”
Van Gogh painted for nine years of his life from the ages of 28 to 37. He painted more than 900 paintings and created more than 2,000 drawings during that time.
“There are over 700 letters to his brother and through those letters you really find out what he was thinking about his art,” Iacampo said. “It’s easier to create because we are not interpreting his art, he’s telling you what he was thinking when he went into the convent, when he was painting Starry Night and he says ‘the colors of night seem more lively to me than the day colors.’ You really know what he’s thinking because he’s telling you.”
There are three parts to the experience. The first two rooms display various paintings and has informational signs that share details about Van Gogh’s life and the artwork. The creative team wanted to show a lot of his art, and they show over 300 works of Van Gogh’s. The idea was also to create context, so people understand why it’s important, Iacampo said.
The exhibit has been recreated in multiple cities like Paris, New York and Atlanta. Each one is designed to a specific location in the city and some tweaks are made along the way. In Atlanta, the creative team added all the paintings to the first room to give some perspective to the size of the actual paintings.
In part of this room there is also a projection of Van Gogh’s vases that rotates through these paintings. The goal was to show that when Van Gogh studied a particular subject, he studied it over and over, Iacampo said.
The next room is the immersive experience that puts visitors in the middle of the paintings and gives them a sense of what the whole environment could have looked like before it became a painting.
“There we want to show the paintings that are really immersive,” Iacampo said. “When you think about Starry Night on a canvas it’s maybe 20 inches by 30 inches but in real life when he was painting it was a nature scene.”
So the creative team wanted to bring the art to life.
“We took the objects inside his paintings, and we said when he was painting the trains they were moving,” Iacampo said. “When he was painting the crabs they were probably moving.”
The last room of the exhibit has a virtual reality experience and a coloring station, so guests can create their own Van Gogh painting. The virtual reality was upgraded for the Atlanta experience and is meant to show a day in the life of the artist. Iacampo said the virtual reality is the icing on the cake to the whole experience.
“The last part of the experience is probably the most important part to me because he committed himself to an asylum,” Iacampo said. “That’s what we try to show.”
“But what we have to remember is that while he was in the convent he created some of his greatest works. He created Starry Night while in the convent. He created many of The Vases while in the convent,” Iacampo added. “It was really some of his most prolific [work].”
The coloring station in the exhibit is to add some fun and be interactive. Atlanta has been the most successful with that element in terms of guests taking home their drawings.
“Normally what people do is they’ll draw, they’ll scan them and then just leave them laying around. Here when you watch people leave, everybody’s taking them,” Iacampo said.
The Pratt Pullman Yard was renovated for the exhibit to add doors to the front, fix the leaky roof and patch holes in the floors. Iacampo loves buildings that people have not been in for a long time, and Pullman Yard has not been used for anything in over 50 years.
“In the end, I love these kind of buildings. They’re majestic. They have their own history. The brick is always warmer than anything else,” Iacampo said. “Judging from the reactions of people, I think we made the right decision.”
Decatur resident Sam Larsen said his parents are from Atlanta and they saw Pullman Yard when it was in operation as a train yard and then when it was abandoned and falling apart.
The facilities have been used as a filming location for various projects and it is destined to become one of Atlanta’s top entertainment districts. Larsen, who works in the film industry, has filmed at Pullman Yard before but said it’s nice to the building in use and brought back to some grandeur.
“It’s cool to see this building transformed because when we shot here two years ago it was a totally different environment,” Larsen said. “Someone with a lot greater imagination than I have transformed this space really well. It’s very cool.”
Tuesday night was Larsen’s second time visiting the exhibit and he enjoyed learning more about Van Gogh throughout the experience.
“We thought that we knew a decent amount of Van Gogh, but I found myself learning so much, especially about mental health,” Larsen said.
Lithonia resident Phyllis Thurmond and her sister, Janice Kitchens, both enjoyed the experience, especially the virtual reality at the end of the experience.
“It pulls it all together because you actually feel like you’re seeing what he saw and what inspired him to do his paintings,” Thurmond said.
She also appreciated seeing the experience and Van Gogh’s talent during mental health awareness month as he suffered from schizophrenia.
“With mental illness, we have to stomp out the stigma and this was a great way to celebrate,” Thurmond said.
Kitchens has seen “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in Paris, Chicago and Atlanta. She said they were all phenomenal. Although, the exhibit in Paris didn’t have the virtual reality experience when she visited in 2019.
“Initially when I saw it, you get the feeling that you’re inside one of his paintings, actually. It’s just different to see different perspectives even from across different countries and different cities,” Kitchens said. “I’m glad it came here.”
“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” will be at Pullman Yard until Jan. 1, 2022. Standard admission to the exhibition during the week is $32.80 for adults, $19.10 for children ages four to 12 and $20.70 for students 13 through 26 and senior citizens. Ticket prices are slightly more on the weekends and the virtual realty experience costs extra. More information can be found on the exhibit website.
The experience is designed to be socially distanced, about 80 guests are allowed into the experience every 30 minutes and guests are encouraged to wear masks while inside the experience.
There are about 300 paid parking spots at the venue along Rogers Street. All the spots must be accessed through the ParkMobile app.
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