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Immersive art exhibit premieres in US at Utah's Leonardo

Attendees enjoy the new immersive space at the Leonardo Museum.

Attendees enjoy the new immersive space at the Leonardo Museum. (Paulina Pena)


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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — While the ongoing pandemic has forced many art spaces to close their doors, the Leonardo has emerged realigned with a spirit of creativity and innovation.

"Every cultural institution had just come out of a really dry spell because COVID not only shut us down but a lot of exhibits stopped touring and so the Leonardo really took that time to say, 'What is important to us?'" said Mia McCain, senior marketing manager.

While it was primarily concerned with the question of when, the Leonardo had focused on the question of how.

"We didn't plan on existing in the same way that we did before. We thought, 'How do we have to change? The world has changed and how can we come out on this other side better?'" McCain said.

Emulating its namesake, Leonardo da Vinci — a Renaissance polymath well-versed in many subjects — the museum turned to the combination of art and technology for its answer and emerged with the state's first digital immersive space.

While Utahns may have experienced other immersive digital art exhibits like "Beyond Van Gogh," the new space is the first permanent one. The 10,000-foot space filled with a number of projectors was partially funded by the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity.

"I know how much COVID has disrupted our cultural sector. So to see an organization emerge with new ideas and offerings, new partnerships, and new technology is a wonderful testament to the magic that can happen when the grit and innovation of community organizations like the Leonardo are supported and amplified," Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said in a video at the space's opening.

The new digital space was launched with "Art Through Experience: From Monet to Kandinsky" exhibit.

Nearly 40 wall and floor projections feature the work of several masters of modernism, including Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky. The works of the artists are paired with professionally curated art history education.

The early November premiere of the exhibit marked the first time it has appeared in the United States, with previous showings in Europe and Asia. Choosing a Utah institution for the premiere speaks to the state's rising status, McCain said.

"We are kind of the crossroads of the West. A lot of people are coming here for a lot of different reasons — such as the tech industry — that are not natives and I think they're in desperation for some form of culture that might exist in New York City or L.A. We're answering the call to those resources," she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Cox.

"Utah's known for its spirit of innovation, as well as for its tech sector. So this is a fitting location for a — that we use technology and digital media to animate and bring to life content, ranging from works of art like the show you will see today, to a vast array of STEM topics," Cox said.

The Leonardo, which is located at 209 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City, is now also showcasing "Italian Renaissance" along with "From Monet to Kandinsky." When the space is not being utilized for art exhibits, it can be used for K-12 immersive learning experiences.

The immersive digital space helps expand accessibility and understanding of art and science, McCain said.

"When you take that out of its context of a museum and you place it into the context of the world, you get people curious and you get them excited about exploring how they as an individual can be creative," she said. "We start getting into how we solve world problems, how we start communicating better and how we get creative and innovative and that's really what the Leonardo is all about."

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit theleonardo.org.

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