Through its glittering neon signs, whirring slot machines, exuberant table games, illustrious theatrical productions and reverberating nightclubs, Las Vegas has long been known for sensory overload. But in the past few years, the city's artistic and technical minds have started to provide new opportunities for tourists to enter unique, highly creative realms for entertainment, education and inspiration through immersive art.
Broadly defined, immersive art blends the latest in visual, audio and interactive technology to surround guests in a 360-degree artistic experience. It can include virtual reality, holography and digital projection.
Unlike watching a movie, attending a typical play or musical or even strolling through a museum, guests are not passive bystanders. They can engage with the art and artists, play a role, change the experience and often discover their own creative path.
One of the most ambitious examples of immersive art in Las Vegas, open since April in what was an abandoned warehouse across from the English Hotel in the city's Arts District, is "Particle Ink: Speed of Dark."
Described by producers as "a living graphic novel," the production invites guests into "a portal into the 2.5th dimension, that liminal space between waking and sleeping," to encounter a grieving artist and his wife.
Live actors and dancers ingeniously interact with projection mapping, animation, street art, props, lasers, theatrical fog, a 14-song soundtrack and, of course, guests who move from room to room during the more-than-hourlong experience.
The storytelling experience is at times whimsical and magical, other times dark and haunting but always intimate and thought provoking.
"We want people to feel inspired. We want people to feel like their creativity has sparked, and we want people to feel connected," said Jennifer Tuft, co-CEO of Kaleidoco, the entertainment technology company behind the exhibition.
"We really wanted the audience to have agency over a lot of their experience," Tuft said. "And we played with other models of that, but we really felt it was important for people to have that sense of self-discovery, and we created the experience around that."
Tuft, a narrative and documentary film producer, said the burgeoning creativity in the Arts District reminds her of New York's arts scene in the 1980s.
"We really believe that actually even more than before [the pandemic], people want to be together, they want to gather, they want to have communal experiences, they want to have meaningful experiences, purposeful experiences, she said."
"Leonardo: The Universal Man" at Perception Las Vegas, a permanent digital art museum on the Strip. Photo Credit: Maisato
"Particle Ink: Speed of Dark" was launched as a 12-week limited engagement but has been extended three times and is now set to close on Dec. 4.
Its production team has indicated that another experience in the same metaverse at another Las Vegas location will be announced soon.
The Area15 art and entertainment campus, a venue for immersive art that opened just off the Strip in 2020, is home to Illuminarium, Meow Wolf's Omega Mart, Wink World and other digital art experiences.
Omega Mart, which checks all the boxes for immersive art, might be described as "America's Most Exceptional Grocery Store," but behind the freezer cases lurk installation-filled rooms, terrains and portals. Illuminarium guests can explore "Wild: A Safari Experience" and "A Journey to the Moon & Beyond." Wink World's six infinity mirror rooms combine light, color, sound and motion.
Other immersive venues include Perception Las Vegas, the Strip's first permanent digital art museum, which is hosting the world premiere of "Leonardo: The Universal Man" that celebrates the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.Lighthouse ArtSpace Las Vegas at the Shops at Crystals, which has hosted "Immersive Van Gogh" for more than a year, will also feature "The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle" beginning Nov. 19 and the "Disney Animation Immersive Experience" next year.
"The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle" opens this month at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Las Vegas at the Shops at Crystals. Photo Credit: Patrick Hodgson
An array of Illuminating experiences
There are numerous immersive art experiences visitors might want to make time for during their time in Las Vegas. Here are some of the options:
Illuminarium, Area15 campus, 3246 W. Desert Inn Road. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (additional late hours for adults). Price: $29. Web: Illuminarium.com.
"Immersive Van Gogh" and "Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle," Lighthouse ArtSpace Las Vegas at the Shops at Crystals. Hours: 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. Price: $35. Web: VanGoghVegas.com; Immersive-Nutcracker.com.
"Leonardo: The Universal Man," Perception Las Vegas, 2780 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Price: $34.50. Web: PerceptionLasVegas.com.
Museum of Selfies, Linq Promenade. Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight daily. Price: $30. Web: SelfieVegas.com.
Omega Mart, Area15, 3215 S. Rancho Drive. Hours: 10 a.m. to midnight, Thursdays to Mondays; noon to midnight, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Price: $49 Web: MeowWolf.com.
"Particle Ink: Speed of Dark," 918 S. Main St. Hours: 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays and 7 p.m. Mondays. Price: $59. Web: ParticleInk.com.
"Wink World: Portals Into the Infinite," Area15, 3215 S. Rancho Drive. Hours: Noon to 11:30 p.m., daily. Price: $18. Web: WinkWorld.com.
Prices may vary depending on day, time and purchasing method and do not include taxes and fees.