Pushing the boundaries of traditional museum and theater spaces, San Diego’s immersive, interactive art scene puts visitors in the center of the action with unforgettable visual, dance and dramatic spectacles found nowhere else.
From climbing a massive crocheted hammock sculpture and exploring a vertigo-inducing crooked house to site-specific dances and mini plays – including a hallucinogenic journey into quinceañera celebrations – San Diego’s fantastical immersive art experiences engage and transport audiences. Visitors don’t just look at art – they become a part of it, activating and heightening their senses along the way.
The following are five immersive, Insta-worthy San Diego art experiences and installations that have to be seen, heard and touched to be believed.
Without Walls (WOW) Festival
Bursting through traditional theater walls, the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse uses the story telling form in exciting and unexpected ways during its fourth biennial Without Walls (WOW) Festival, Oct. 17-20, 2019, at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station . This groundbreaking, site-specific theater series takes advantage of San Diego’s sunny climate to showcase multiple outdoor performances by acclaimed local, national and international artists, along with a selection of family friendly offerings, occurring simultaneously over four days. A few standouts include Las Quinceañeras, a surreal, multisensory exploration of the famed Latina rite of passage; Hidden Stories, an invisible performance in which audiences are endowed with the power to hear the thoughts of certain passers-by and follow them into the unknown, and Boats, adventurous voyages on the urban ocean propelled by children’s imagination and energy.
Creating eclectic, wonderous spaces where people can connect with art and each other, Wonderspaces has been wowing visitors and locals since 2017. From June 7–Sept. 1, 2019, the B Street Pier Cruise Ship Terminal will become Wonderspaces’ blank canvas where guests of all ages can enjoy 13 mesmerizing artworks by artists from around the world that play on the senses, ranging from room-sized installations of light, sound and texture to virtual reality films. Three awesome examples are We are All Made of Light, where guests see themselves illustrated as constellations in the night sky, highlighting our universal interconnectedness; Rainbow Rooms, a multicolored fabric and yarn-covered home scene that reflects the artist’s experience growing up as a gay man in conservative South Africa, and Confessions, a participatory installation that explores public rituals for catharsis and compassion, in which visitors submit a confession on a wooden plaque in the privacy of a confession booth.
Unique in the world of children’s museums for its practice of commissioning contemporary artists, the New Children’s Museum in downtown San Diego presents its newest art commission Whammock! by internationally renowned textile artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam. Opening to the public on June 15, this one-of-a-kind, interactive three-dimensional textile environment resembles a giant hammock of colorful crocheted circles, open pockets and dangling pendulums. MacAdam’s first large-scale work at a U.S. museum, Whammock! welcomes children and adults alike to climb, swing, crawl or simply lay in the cradle of its handwoven embrace. Guests are sure to be transfixed by how the movements and vibrations caused by play activate this soaring three-dimensional installation.
San Diego Trolley Dances
There will be music and dancing in the streets – and on the city’s iconic red San Diego Trolley – during the 21st Annual San Diego Trolley Dances , Sept. 28-29 and Oct. 4-6, 2019, presented by Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Guests riding the San Diego Trolley will be treated to site-specific choreographed dance performances along the trolley lines, taking inspiration from the trolley stations, their architectural elements and environs/public spaces (i.e., the San Diego Public Library near the 12th & Imperial station), as well as the play of light and shadow throughout the day. Acclaimed choreographer Jean Isaacs created the dances in 1999 as an exciting alternative to the artificial formality of conventional stages and the hierarchy of space imposed on dancers when viewed straight on.
The Stuart Collection
A unique collection of 20 site-specific sculptures by leading contemporary artists, the Stuart Collection at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), has enriched the cultural life of the UCSD campus and San Diego community since the 1980s. A jewel in the crown of La Jolla ’s world-class array of arts and culture offerings, the Stuart Collection sets itself apart from a traditional sculpture garden by integrating some of the projects with university buildings and architecture. Free and open to the public year-round, visitors are welcome to explore the collection via a self-guided walking tour. Highlights include Richard Fleischner’s Stonehenge-like La Jolla Project; Tim Hawkinson’s gigantic, not-so-soft and cozy granite Bear; Bruce Nauman’s blinking neon Vices and Virtues (best viewed in the evening); Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful and towering Sun God (her first outdoor commission in America); the meandering, 560-foot long mosaic Snake Path by Alexis Smith, and Fallen Star, a small blue cottage by Do Ho Suh that sits crookedly atop the corner of a 7-story building – seemingly dropped from the sky. Inside, the floor and house itself are at different angles, creating a sense of dislocation, inviting the question, "What is home?"
Happiness is calling in San Diego. For more information on San Diego’s offerings, including exciting vacation packages and valuable coupons for attractions, restaurants and more, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.