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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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ARTECHOUSE’s immersive holiday exhibit evokes the joy and nostalgia of the season

Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor
Fluid displays of nutcrackers dancing in line, candy canes and gingerbread cookies approach you on the path toward the toy factory.

As the holidays draw near, ARTECHOUSE captures the joyful elements of the season and brings them to life through a new exhibit this winter.

ARTECHOUSE, an immersive digital art center based in Southwest, takes visitors on a personal journey through a multiverse presentation of a toy factory as part of its immersive holiday exhibit known as “Spectacular Factory,” which released last month and runs through Jan. 8. The exhibit delivers nostalgic aspects of the holiday season, from a snowy city reminiscent of the picturesque village of Whoville to an elaborate nutcracker toy factory in the museum’s new exhibit, through advanced technology that generates stunning visuals.

Josh Feldman, the senior manager of sales and marketing at ARTECHOUSE, said the space inspires patrons to take in the audiovisual experience of the exhibit while connecting with the works of art through motion sensing technology and interactive virtual puzzles. He said ARTECHOUSE has unveiled several holiday-themed exhibits in the past, including a nutcracker exhibition and an aurora borealis feature, but this exhibit showcases a more interactive holiday experience that will bring cherished holiday memories rushing back.

“We’re giving visitors a chance to explore the sights and sounds of the holiday season we’re all very much familiar with,” Feldman said.

He said ARTECHOUSE focuses on creating and commemorating memories with loved ones to give patrons the opportunity to open up and express a child-like vulnerability as they immerse themselves in elements of the season they’ve celebrated from childhood. Feldman said ARTECHOUSE’s team has never attempted the technological advancements seen in this exhibit before, and the team is “pushing the limits” to create “ephemeral” experiences that situate each visitor in the center of the exhibit’s storyline.

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The enchanting journey starts as you walk down a staircase dimly lit by a black-and-white, neon ARTECHOUSE logo, not knowing what to expect as you walk down. As the dark stairs start to build suspense, a second set of stairs, intensely illuminated by green and red lights lining the railing, sets the colorfully decorative mood for what lies ahead.

The first festive element to catch your eye when you walk into the main showroom is a seasonally decorated Extended Reality bar, serving alcoholic drinks inside the exhibit. The bar adds to the experience with specialty holiday cocktails and mocktails themed around the experience while monitors in the background show looped visuals of familiar holiday staples like presents, trees and ornaments.

In the main room, around five 3D projectors display stunning, crisp visuals that detect and adjust to surrounding light in order to create a responsive projection, creating a satisfying sense of coherence. Illustrations ranging from toys, wreaths and nutcrackers decorate the surrounding walls and floor, complemented by a slow, instrumental aural harmony emitted from high-quality, surround-sound speakers.

The sound inspires a feeling of nostalgia mixed with a dream-like undertone, reminding you of fond holiday memories. The visuals place you as the main character in the middle of a story – you’ll catch familiar elements of the season like snow-covered trees and light-lined houses as you travel through a factory manned by nutcrackers and a city covered in snow.

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Fluid displays of thousands of nutcrackers dance in line and pass by while candy canes and gingerbread cookies approach on a path toward the toy factory as you reach the gates. The gates open to a massive toy factory surrounded by trees and coated with wreaths. Inside, machines produce wrapped presents and deposit them onto multiple conveyor belts. You’ll fly through wreaths as gifts and ornaments pass you by in this colorful and cohesive scene.

Expectations will rise as you traverse each of the four remaining showrooms. As you leave the main exhibition room, you’ll walk through a narrow doorway that looks into a candy cane-wallpapered hallway filled with animations of nutcrackers creating toys around the same factory seen in the main room.

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Past that hallway, you’ll transition into the interactive portion of the exhibit. Black walls and ceiling decorated with large physical candy canes instantly inspire calmness and focus as you’re captivated by an approaching journey. As you walk on a digitally interactive, motion-sensing platform, a wrapped present emerges and moves alongside as you head down the hallway before meeting the rest of the presents and falling into another web of interconnected conveyor belts. After the gifts finally find their way to a virtual display case, you’ll select one to reveal a surprise ranging from a toy airplane to a little dog.

Next, you’ll enter a virtual scavenger hunt to discover six pieces of a missing present. You’ll know what you’re looking for when you see glowing items that stand out from any and other props in the space. Using ARTECHOUSE’s app, you’ll scan these items to eventually piece the toy together.

Feldman said the scavenger hunt within the surrounding toy factory further engulfs patrons as part of an already-personal experience.

“You’re embarking on this journey through this factory that came to life, this toy factory,” he said. “We want visitors to be part of that, and it is an extra layer to build that interactivity.”

The next portion of the exhibit – and my favorite – is the kaleidoscope room playing jolly music. The space presented a looped kaleidoscope display of nutcrackers and gifts on two tilted screens spanning the entire wall. On the other walls, floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflect several piles of presents to contrast the prismatic display.

“Spectacular Factory” offered an incredibly memorable experience brought to life through intelligence and innovation. Especially during the holiday season, this exhibit creates a space to share in feelings of intrigue and a festive sentimentality alongside your loved ones.

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