Original paintings by Vincent Van Gogh can be viewed all over the world at museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and, of course, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. But this summer, you’ll be able to step into projections of his works – including Starry Night – in Augusta’s own James Brown Arena.
Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will be open to the public May 21-June 26.
Getting it ready for visitors will take 10 days and many hands, according to French-Canadian director Mathieu St-Arnaud, who created the experience. Setup will be done by five members of the Beyond Van Gogh team and they will hire 12 local workers to assist. Forty employees will remain with the project during the production.
More than 300 pieces created with more than 4 trillion content pixels in multi-dimensional projections will be on display in the more than 30,000-square-foot space. Guests move through different rooms with walls wrapped in light and color while listening to music and reading the words of the historic painter.
“It was all about finding a middle ground between such a historic subject and cutting edge technology to tell the story differently and allow the audience to step foot into (Van Gogh’s) world,” art historian and creative team member Fanny Curtat said.
Guests begin their experience in the Introduction Hall, which features panels of biographical information and explanations of the major elements of the artist’s work. Then they step into the Waterfall Room filled with splashes and dots of colors flowing down the walls. The entire project takes approximately one hour to complete, Curtat said.
The project, Curtat said, is not meant to replace a museum experience, but more to show a 21st century audience how relevant a 19th century artist still is.
Augusta University art professor Scott Thorp said while most people will never have the opportunity to see Van Gogh originals, this presents an opportunity to be introduced to art – perhaps for the first time – which could inspire visits to the local Morris Museum of Art or the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, Westobou or Mary S. Byrd galleries, the latter of which is located at AU’s Summerville Campus.
“It’s to promote the arts and gets people familiar with it,” he said.
Thorp said with projection art like this becoming more popular, the university is exploring curriculum to teach upcoming artists. It will soon begin offering a degree in visual digital storytelling.
“This stuff is becoming more real,” he said. “Arts entertainment is becoming a big thing and bringing a lot of money to cities.
Beyond Van Gogh began in October 2020 and took six months to design. In 2021, the production went to about 18 cities in North America, with four or five running simultaneously.
Curtat said they expect to do a similar number of shows in North America in 2022 but will also begin showing in South America and Japan. This spring, shows will overlap in Alberqueque, Memphis and Atlanta before the Augusta dates. The next closest city is Charleston, S.C., from July 16 to Sept. 4.
“It’s really blowing up and actually quite fun to follow,” she said.
Tickets for the Augusta stop are available online at vangoghaugusta.com with entry times from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, May 21-June 26. Tickets are $21.99 for children and $46.99 for adults. VIP tickets are also available for $83.99. Final entry is one hour before closing.