Ross has had massive success in the theater realm, but as mentioned earlier, this is his first time dipping his toes into an immersive production. While the show had considerable acclaim in Europe, did Ross know what a huge success the exhibit would become in North America?
“I never anticipated this. I think we are at 3.3 million tickets sold. It’s just become part of the Zeitgeist. It’s the most successful attraction on the Ticketmaster system in the world right now. Beyond that, the artists that have come in have just blown me away,” he said.
The artists that have come to experience Immersive Van Gogh include Annie Lenox, Madonna, Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chris Noth, and the incomparable George Lucas, all who had high praise for the exhibit!
With the exhibit now open in nine cities with plans to expand to 21 locations by year’s end, I asked Ross if Immersive Van Gogh has evolved any based on coming up with new ideas or visitor feedback.
“The concept of the exhibit, the journey that we go into in Van Gogh’s mind in the moments before he passed away has remained the same,” he explained. “The things that we have tweaked or adjusted, first of all, as I said, we do a complete recreation of the show for every building. It’s fascinating to me that just because of the architecture, different parts of the show pop out in different ways. When it’s shown on a piece of architecture that didn’t exist in Toronto but does exist in Chicago, it really pops and seems more meaningful to me and going to different cities and observing it.”
The questions I have seen on social media about the exhibit (aside from the location, which has now been revealed), are how long it takes to get through the exhibit and what the overall is experience is like. I asked Ross those very questions:
“It’s really interesting because people come and they don’t understand how they are going to experience it. They know that its’ something cool. They might have seen some video. The show itself is 35 minutes. It’s on a loop and repeats itself,” he explains. “We admit the public on the hour, every hour. If you bought a ticket for 10:00 AM then you get admitted at 10:00. You’ll come in and by the time you come in you may enter at any time during the loop. Statistically, people stay for two versions of the loop, so they are in for about an hour to an hour and a half. We don’t tell you when to leave. We have to tell you when to come for COVID and crowd control reasons. Until it’s time to go to bed, you could stay all day. You can choose to move. You might want to watch the show once sitting on a bench and then walk through and experience it from different angles and different ways. It’s choose your own adventure for the public to engage it in your own way and pick the length of time you want to stay engaging with the installation. That’s one of the things that’s so wonderful about it.”
With COVID case spiking in Ohio, safety is a concern for most that will attend the event. I asked Ross what precautions the event organizers are taking to keep their visitors safe.
“This is a very large space, first of all. We require everyone to wear masks and we have circles that we project on to the floor to help people with social distancing,” he said. “Those are the main things that we’ve done. We’ve been running this show since July of last year and we’ve had over a million people come through and see it already and it hasn’t caused any outbreaks of COVID.”
Lastly, with folks struggling financially due to the pandemic, perhaps out of work for an extended time, Ross was asked why one’s limited entertainment dollar should be spent on a ticket to Immersive Van Gogh.
“It’s got two things going for it: One is that it’s just a completely new type of experience; it’s a new genre. To come out of being deprived of most of the typical artistic genres that we traditionally experience in a year, to come out of that and to be able to experience something completely new and that’s something we all deserve. If you’re going to spoil yourself with one artistic adventure, this is the one, just because it’s so fresh and new and exciting and different. That’s number one,” he said. “Number two, this is world class, this is the guy from Europe that’s been creating these and so it’s unique because of that. Those would be the two reasons I’d say it’s worth using your entertainment budget.”
The Original Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit opens at Lighthouse Artspace, 850 E. 72nd Street in Cleveland on September 22, 2021. Tickets are available at https://www.vangoghcleveland.com.
For more information about Immersive Van Gogh Cleveland, visit https://www.vangoghcleveland.com.