Multimillion-dollar projectors and other digital gear from Charlotte’s popular Van Gogh immersive exhibit sit in humidity-controlled storage units collecting dust. But not for long.
what happened: The leaders of Blumenthal Performing Arts are developing a plan to build a new arts center in the city of approximately 30,000 square feet as a venue for immersive public events, live performances and arts education.
Why it matters: Immersive Van Gogh drew more than 300,000 people from the region to Charlotte and introduced a whole new way to experience art.
- According to Blumenthal CEO Tom Gabbard, it boosted business at Camp North End and funneled more than $500,000 into the pockets of local artists through its residency program.
Now, Gabbard wants to create a permanent space to “navigate this redefinition of art,” he said.
What to expect: The space is inspired by projects around the world, such as Ideal Barcelona, an innovative digital arts center in Spain; Troubadour Theaters in London, which operates semi-permanent, moveable venues; and Mind Theater, an immersive theater experience in Denver, Colorado.
- Gabbard and his team scoured to find inspiration for a cutting-edge center that he believed would differentiate Charlotte as a leader in immersive art spaces.
space: Gabbard and his team have been searching for a suitable building for more than a year, but have come up with nothing. He told Axios that the correct property would have:
- 23,500 to 31,500 square feet, including a great room of at least 10,000 square feet, with no beams to obstruct visitors’ view.
- Centrally located in Charlotte with easy access to freeways and public transportation.
- Plus: 300 cars can be parked.
Blumenthal’s leaders are also considering building something from the ground up, citing the Troubadour Theatre, for example. Gabbard said building a semi-permanent, moveable site could help the center cover more of Charlotte, cut costs, speed up the timeline and build a space that exactly met their needs.
cost: A semi-permanent site costs about $3-5 million, Gabbard said. The cost of rehabilitating an existing building depends more on the space itself, so it is difficult to estimate without a lease.
- One of the biggest expenses for a center like this is equipment. Blumenthal already has it, though.
- “We don’t think it’s something we’re going to rely on city funding for,” he said. “Frankly, the cost part is the least threatening for us.”
enlarge: Whatever neighborhood the center is in, Gabbard hopes his project will have a positive impact on surrounding areas and businesses.
When Immersive Van Gogh opens in 2021, Babe & Butcher, the deli-turned-restaurant, has only been open for a few days. “It was a huge test in many ways,” co-owner Lindsay Anvik told me.
- Early on they saw some familiar faces, but most of the customers were new and from across the region, she said.
- “We hear over and over from people…they’ve never been to this part of the city. Discovering us, discovering Camp North End and all the other unique businesses here is like unlocking a cool secret.”
- “our [foot] Traffic and revenue have increased significantly,” Anvik added. “It reinforces that our fast-casual concept is working. “
What’s next: As Gabbard and his team continue to search for a suitable site, they are soliciting input from residents and local creatives on what they would like to have in such a space. They’re used to quick activations—Immersive Van Gogh was completed in just a few months.
When I asked Gabbard if he was concerned that these immersive art exhibitions were just an “Emily in Paris” fever dream, he replied, “Everything in art is a trend.”
- With an arts and entertainment center like this, he said, “we can go with the public because their curiosity will take them elsewhere.”