In an effort to create an immersive storytelling experience that is both playful and profound, Refinery 29 staged the pop-up interactive fun house “29 Rooms” to sold-out audiences in New York.
Designed to inspire creativity as well as action, the event — which debuts in Los Angeles on Thursday — was first produced three years ago as a way for the media company, which focuses on women, to present its most popular content in a different way.
Piera Gelardi, co-founder and executive creative director of Refinery 29, describes the event as a cross between a fun house and a museum.
“In the beginning, we wanted to work with a huge range of creative talent to reflect the moment we were living in,” Gelardi said. “We gathered musicians, poets, visual artists and technologists to try and tell stories in new ways.”
And though the show’s theme, “Turn it into Art,” (inspired by the Carrie Fisher quote "Take your broken heart, make it into art”), is meant to encourage joy and creativity, Gelardi said the show is designed to be more than a backdrop for Instagram selfies. “We want it to be interactive and joyful, with the cultural relevancy of a museum,” she said.
Emmy-winning director Jill Soloway (“Transparent”) and artist Xavier Schipani, for instance, have re-created a gender-neutral high school bathroom where visitors can listen to first-person accounts detailing gender awareness.
“In person, as you listen to people’s experiences, you understand them differently,” Gelardi said. “We really hope that people leave 29 Rooms feeling a sense of possibility. Our hope is the space creates empathy and understanding.”
Visitors can also get some temporary ink in Demi Lovato’s tattoo parlor, have their dreams interpreted by singer Darby Walker, create their own symphony by striking hanging punching bags courtesy of Jen Mussari and Madame Gandhi, and melt into an artwork in Alexa Meade’s “Become the Masterpiece.”
New collaborators such as Lovato, Janelle Monáe, Margot Robbie and Lilly Singh join previous participants including Soloway, Benjamin Shine, Chloe x Halle, Sasheer Zamata, Lizzo, Meade, Cleo Wade, Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March and The Art of Elysium, among others.
On Friday, Meade said that visitors waited in line for an hour in New York to slip on her hand-painted props and clothing and blend into her immersive artworks.
Which brings us to the the disappointing news: The show is sold out. Follow Refinery 29’s Instagram account for updates on the next show.
What: 29 Rooms
Where: The Row DTLA, 777 S. Alameda St., downtown L.A.
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 7-Dec.10 and Dec.14 -Dec.17
Tickets: Sold out.
Info: 29rooms.com or @29Rooms on social media for more information and updates.