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Taking the Kids: And a brand-new way to experience art

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Thumbs up or down? Anyone who has tried to interest and show kids Great Art knows they may not always respond the way you’d like, or even expect.

That’s true even at Van Gogh Alive, the world’s most visited multi-sensory experience, which has attracted more than 8 million visitors around the world in 65 cities on six continents in the past decade. It has now just opened outside Denver, presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in partnership with Grande Experiences and will be here through September in the hangar at Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, a historic refurbished airline hangar turned event space, home to more than 50 independent Colorado venues for food, drink and shops.

Van Gogh Alive is unlike any other art exhibit and that’s the point — you are supposed to be immersed in Van Gogh’s not-always-happy world as more than 3,000 Van Gogh images are synchronized to a classical score, filling giant screens, walls and even the floor, as you take a tour through the locales where he created so many famous works — The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy, Auvers-sur-Oise. Everything is book-ended by a series of self-portraits created during his too-short career. (Check out a column I wrote on walking in Van Gogh’s footsteps in the French town where he spent his final — and most prolific days.)

Even smell is part of the experience, including cypress and cedar, nutmeg and lemon designed to transport you to the orchards, gardens, and fields where Van Gogh painted. This “Sensory 4” experience combines multichannel motion graphics, surround-sound, and up to 40 high-definition projectors, developed by Grande Expeditions.

Amazing! “I like that it’s so big,” said Denverite Anabel,6, who was keeping time to the music.

“When you go to a museum you can’t see as much detail in the paintings,” added her sister Eliana, 8. “It makes me want to paint a picture.


But older kids weren’t as enthused. “Video games are more entertaining,” said Edison, 13, who added he would prefer to be in an art museum where you can move from gallery to gallery rather than staying in one spot. “I didn’t think it was immersive,” he said. “This was just sitting and watching.”

“There just wasn’t much to do,” opined his younger sister Audrey, 11.

Older kids, of course, are used to video games and interactive museum exhibits which enable them to control their experience themselves.

“We seem to live our lives in sound bites,” suggested Christa Jimenez, creator of the Pura Vida Moms Blog, who was enjoying the experience with her family. “It’s good to come and stop and experience something like this together.”


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