Austin Wonderspaces

Delia Rune, Finance Director

A VR experience with glowing codfish floating through an abandoned city. 8,604 multi-colored points of light changing in correspondence to ambient music. A chalkboard with scrawls from visitors stating their aspirations.

Wonderspaces is an organization that works with artists to introduce art to new audiences. It has locations in four different American cities: Scottsdale, Austin, Philadelphia, and San Diego. The group aims to make art accessible for people who might not usually go to museums by displaying what they describe as fun, interactive, or Instagram-worthy exhibits.

 According to their mission statement, Wonderspaces is working to close the divide between artists and their potential audiences. One of the ways they are doing this is by building their exhibits in places not usually used to display art. So far, Wonderspaces has built locations in malls, warehouses, and cruise ship terminals but they’re looking to expand even further. 

Wonderspaces pays and credits artists to relieve their artists of the responsibility of connecting their art to an audience. Instead, Wonderspaces hopes to act like a bridge between those who make art and those who view it. Visitor Natalia Lopez said this was her first time ever at an art museum. 

“Taking pictures and the art motivated me to come,” Lopez said. “I got stuck at the lights downstairs for a couple minutes just taking pictures and looking at it.”

Lopez said she would be happy to come back to Wonderspaces again, as would another visitor, Andrew McCray, who described himself as a more seasoned museum-goer. He was drawn to Wonderspaces by how interactive the exhibits were.

“I definitely enjoyed the walkthrough and felt like I was really there in the art and it was really cool,” McCray said.

Wonderspaces employs a variety of mediums in order to make their pieces interactive or different from traditional museums. One exhibit, known as the Sewing Machine Orchestra, was simply a row of self-operating sewing machines. Another exhibit involved stepping into a large golden tent, and yet another could solely be viewed through a virtual reality headset. One visitor, Bonnie Reese, said the VR experience was her favorite, and others like Lopez were in agreement.

Many people use Wonderspaces as a place to take pictures, but that doesn’t mean that the art has less meaning or importance to visitors. 

“You can definitely read a deeper meaning into the words and thoughts [in these exhibits],” McCray said. “It gives you a different perspective.” 

Wonderspaces is full of artwork that visitors can analyze for layers and meaning, but the colors and lights make it fun for those who aren’t interested in deeply investigating the art on display.

This year, Wonderspaces has had to put a COVID protocol in place in order to minimize the COVID-19 risks. Wonderspaces has gone cash-free and limited the number of visitors to stop the spread of germs or infections at the museum. Previously, they cut down on exhibitions that involved touching surfaces, like the VR exhibit, but they have now transitioned to sanitizing what they consider high-touch surfaces instead so that visitors have access to all the art available.

Wonderspaces, with its unique location, artwork, and interactive features, takes exhibits to a whole new dimension, and the group is already looking towards the horizon and planning to expand.