Englewood has been immersed in immersive art fans lately. Since Natura Obscura opened in the Museum of Outdoor Arts’ indoor space at the Englewood Civic Center, 1000 Englewood Parkway, it’s been such a draw that the original closing date of late this month was recently extended to September 29. “We were definitely on the fence before we launched,” admits Tim Vacca, MOA director of programs. “We could have gone one of two ways.”
Fortunately, they came down on the positive side. About 17,000 people have come through the gallery since Natura Obscura debuted January 11, compared to 15,000 in all of 2018. The immersive arts exhibition was produced by MOA and Prismajic, along with thirty local artists. It’s billed as “a self-guided exploration through a surrealist, dreamlike forest that combines art, sculpture, and the latest in augmented, sensor based and digital technologies,” but it really has to be seen to be believed.
“There’s a little something for everyone,” Vacca notes. Kids love the Prismajic-designed forest because “it’s so playful and you get a black light,” he explains. Adults love it, too, because that black light “reveals quotes from famous people, and goes a little deeper.” They also appreciate spending time in the sound gallery, where there’s a 28-minute loop, and in the Cabinet of Curiosities area, which was originally designed by Lonnie Hanzon for another MOA exhibit and incorporated into this one.
Hanzon has been doing immersive art for decades, of course, and was at it long before “immersive” became a major arts buzzword, largely thanks to Meow Wolf, that Santa Fe sensation that will be adding a massive Denver complex in late 2020, years after MOA committed to creating Natura Obscura. “Meow Wolf is not synonymous with immersive,” Vacca notes. “A lot of people are following the immersive wave.”
Even so, he adds, some people have wondered if Natura Obscura is a “Meow Wolf pop-up.”
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It definitely isn’t, though MOA has been talking with Meow Wolf about future collaborations (as has just about every arts group in Denver). But in the meantime, Natura Obscura is about all MOA can handle. Tickets are timed, and weekends sell out quickly, but it’s usually easy to grab a spot during the day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And while the gallery technically isn’t open on Monday, MOA has been taking school groups and other tours through on that day, averaging four every Monday.
“We’re really operating seven days a week,” Vacca concludes.
Natura Obscura will close for maintenance on April 30, then reopen for its extended run on May 3. Find out more at moaonline.org.