Denver is proving to be a dreamscape for immersive art and Meow Wolf, which hails itself as a “fantastic realm of story and exploration,” is leading the way with holiday entertainment. On December 3, the sold out Danceportation is holding an immersive dance party, then on December 7 the Winter Ball is bringing it’s own unique take on a winter wonderland.
Denver resident Greg Fiorollo recently visited Meow Wolf with his brother, describing the experience as more akin to a firework show than an art museum.
“It was an experience of awe, at how someone could have thought of this and put this together. You can start anywhere and go anywhere. There are all these stations, and I was exploring and climbing and walking around, trying to analyze and find a common thread.”
Greg described the other people there as integral to the experience. “There were a couple of thousand people there. You’re overstimulated all the time, by everything around you on the walls, but also by all the different types of people there experiencing the place alongside you”.
Since the lifting of pandemic-era regulations, it’s no surprise that Americans spending of time and money has swayed towards real-life experiences. This has caused an uptick in the popularity of new forms of experiences, such as immersive art, an experiential art form that allows viewers to enter a world of art and become a protagonist within it.
Curiously, immersive has found an outpouring of community support in Denver. Buzzy exhibits such as David Byrne’s Theatre of the Mind and Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station have attracted locals and visitors alike. Theatre of the Mind, created by Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, has seen such extraordinary audience demand that the show has extended its run time for another month, to January 22nd, 2023.
David Thomas, a co-founder of the Denver Immersive Gathering and professor of architecture at UC Denver, credits Denver residents’ love for immersive as having to do in part with a genuine and unique enjoyment in being with other people.
“The community of Denver is so interested and engaged in Immersive, and I think it’s because Denver is a place where people like each other, they like creativity and they like seeing what they can do.”
Denver Immersive Gathering (DIG) was a two-day festival and networking event that took place in early November. The conference’s purpose was to bring creatives to Denver to experience and discuss immersive arts. It was put together through the support of various Denver organizations, including the Denver Center for Performing Arts and the city of Denver itself.
“From the city of Denver’s perspective, this was Immersive Denver being trusted with carrying the message of Immersive” David Thomas explains. “When we opened the gates, we thought we would get 2/3 local attendance and 1/3 out of state. But it was the reverse. Thirty states and Ninety cities were represented.”
When asked about his favorite DIG moment, David Thomas recalls seeing David Byrne at the party at Meow Wolf, in the middle of the crowd. “(He was) just like every other producer, just talking to people. He’s an immersive person, he’s an artist. And everyone is like that. There aren’t a lot of levels, there’s not an A list, B list, or C list. So that’s very exciting to me to see a community that is so engaged and excited in this way”.
Much more is on the horizon for Denver’s immersive scene. Camp Christmas in Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park is a Christmas-themed campground full of immersive exhibits and light displays, running throughout most of December. Casa Bonita is on its way to reopening after closing, then being bought by the creators of South Park. Denver Fringe Festival, the week-long annual performing arts festival in June, is also known to host gripping immersive experiences.
Asked if there will be a DIG 2023, David Thomas answered simply: “Denver loves immersive, and Immersive loves Denver, so why let that romantic relationship fade.”