Van Gogh visits West Sacramento with a captivating, immersive experience – Daily Democrat

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in the world, remembered as such more than 130 years after his death.

Yolo County residents now have the opportunity to view and analyze some of van Gogh’s most famous works at a traveling museum. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is located at 31 15th St. and will be on view in West Sacramento through at least April.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience runs through April at 31 15th Street in West Sacramento. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

Tickets start at $34.90 for adults and $19.90 for children. However, according to West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero, the experience is worth the price.

“It’s important to our community for artists to be able to share their artwork, and we’re trying to do more of that around town,” Guerrero said. “This venue gives our residents the opportunity to be up close and personal with an artist who just has so much depth and history.”

Exhibition Hub developed the concept in 2015 and premiered it overseas in Europe in 2018. In 2019, Exhibition Hub began bringing the concept to the United States the following year. However, those plans have been pushed back to 2021 by the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibit originally premiered stateside in Atlanta, Georgia.

“West Sacramento was one of the areas that we looked at very closely because of its location as the gateway to Northern California, really the heart of the region,” recalled John Zaller, Executive Producer at Exhibition Hub. “As a city that really loves art, it was a city where we felt the show would be well received, and it is.”

The museum offers a self-guided tour of van Gogh’s art. Participants will have the opportunity to read the text alongside the various artworks.

The other option available is to download the Van Gogh Immersive USA application to your smartphone. The app provides a narration of all the information provided, allowing participants to spend more time visually analyzing the artwork and all of its various intricacies.

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“Van Gogh is one of the rock stars of the art world,” Zaller proclaimed. “He has a story that many of us know very well. He has an incredibly unique style. If you see his work, you know his work. He has his own brand and history as a person that many of us can relate to. He’s more than a struggling artist, he’s someone who truly wore his heart on his sleeve. He has become a very likable figure in the art world. His work back then was really revolutionary and it has remained so to this day.”

Before being elected Mayor of West Sacramento in 2020, Guerrero was a social worker and therapist for over 20 years. Guerrero’s previous experience helped her to analyze the psychological problems van Gogh struggled with before he took his own life in 1890 at the age of 37.

“To understand some of van Gogh’s psychological experiences and the challenges he personally faced, even in his relationships and isolation,” Guerrero explained. “Just seeing how much he was able to bring momentum into his life, a movement that could offer that self-expression. So that people see that there are ways to help them address some of their own personal issues.”

An ever-changing bust of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh is one of the first things you see when you visit "Van Gogh exhibition Sacramento: The Immersive Experience" in West Sacramento, which is open through February.  (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)
An ever-changing bust of famed artist Vincent Van Gogh is one of the first things you see when you visit Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in West Sacramento, which is open through April. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

The first half of the experience is what you would expect in most traditional museums, with art on the walls and information alongside to further explain each work of art in the gallery space. There are two particular pieces of art in the first half of the museum that are different from the others – but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

The second half of the experience is what makes it so special and engaging: the immersion.

First, take a step into the sunflower room. As far as the eye can see, you will be surrounded by beautiful sunflowers.

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Sunflowers were among van Gogh’s most famous works as he was very interested in nature. For social media fans, the Sunflower Room provides an engaging backdrop for an Instagram Boomerang video featuring the song “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee.

The next section of the experience is the immersive space. No matter where you turn, even if you make a full 360 degree rotation, you are surrounded by van Gogh’s art. The immersive space is filled with comfortable chairs and benches for attendees to sit back and really enjoy the show. Guerrero described the space as “soothing and relaxing.”

Famous artist Vincent Van Gogh painted many self-portraits throughout his life, which can be viewed in "Van Gogh exhibition Sacramento: The Immersive Experience" in West Sacramento through February.  (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)
Famed artist Vincent Van Gogh painted many self-portraits throughout his life, which are on view at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in West Sacramento through April. (Shaun Holkko/Daily Democrat)

The way in which the various works of art are interwoven and flow into one another is impressive.

“You see his actual paintings, most of them aren’t that big,” Zaller said. “They are a normal 2×3 painting. The vision he had and the scale he created in these small canvases is also enough to blast them to the size of a room. That’s another reason we picked him, his work is so impressive it could fill a room if it covered these walls.

“That’s exactly what happened in this immersive space. We’ve always tried to create an immersive space that has significant height and volume so you can really step in as if you were a part of this painting that surrounds you.”

The penultimate part of the experience is the art studio. After exiting the mesmerizing immersive space, participants enter what appears to be an elementary school classroom. A projector stands in the center of the room, showing art on the screen, while many chalk-colored stencils hang on the walls.

The studio offers participants the opportunity to make their mark and use colored pencils to create their own interpretation of one of van Gogh’s most famous works of art. When you’re done, you can pin your artwork to the wall and place it on the projector for those who follow to see it.

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“Doing your own drawing and visualizing it on the wall was pretty cool,” Guerrero recalls. “Something you feel you can contribute yourself. This hands-on experience for both children and adults I think was very helpful for people who continue to imagine making art.”

The final stop of the experience will cost you a bit more money to enter but is well worth the $5. The final part of the immersive experience is virtual reality.

Throughout the museum, visitors can see van Gogh’s most famous works of art. In the immersive space, you are surrounded by the art around you.

Now imagine taking a step inside some of van Gogh’s works – which is possible with virtual reality. The VR experience offers participants the chance to stroll through eight of van Gogh’s works, including ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’ and ‘Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles’.

The VR experience allows you to see the center of the artwork right in front of you, while also giving you the ability to focus on the smaller details of the artwork around you that you might not have noticed before.

“We’re the only immersive company to offer these virtual reality components because we figured out how to make virtual reality accessible to every guest who walks in,” explained Zaller. “It’s going to be that great final moment where you get as close to the artist as you can. It creates a full additional layer of appreciation for the work and the artist himself.”

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will not be permanently in West Sacramento. Check back before the end of April when the show is traveling to another US city.