The Beyond Van Gogh Experience changes art, creating an innovative exhibit

Emma Williams, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the July 20 flipbook.

Lights dance around the room, creating the scenes of Van Gogh’s gardens on the walls and floor. Each viewer appears to become a flower in his masterpiece as the lights hit them. Special education sophomore Emmilia Krone said she stood there for an hour, completely captivated.

Mathieu St-Arnaud, creative director of Normal Studios and the Beyond Van Gogh Experience, aimed to transcend everyday life in the midst of the pandemic. St-Arnaud hoped to take viewers a step deeper into the mind of Van Gogh through projection technology to create an immersive artwork experience.

“During the pandemic, we all need to be able to see the beauty that’s right there,” said St-Arnaud. “It’s a break from everyday life, no matter what your everyday life is, to look, feel and just enjoy.”

St-Arnaud has created visual appeals, such as set designs and lighting, for Broadway shows and concerts, but Beyond Van Gogh is different. St-Arnaud said Van Gogh is part of our global culture and believed utilizing his artwork to cultivate an immersive experience would change how individuals experience art.

“For us it felt very broad and open and for any age group,” St-Arnaud said. “No matter what your condition is, you can actually go in and enjoy this. This was a big motivator in creating.”

For St-Arnaud, accessibility was a key component for Beyond Van Gogh. He and his team aimed to counter the stigma surrounding art.

“I just hate that people think it’s not for them,” St-Arnaud said. “We’re breaking down this idea that art is for select groups of people, that you have to know something about art or art history to enjoy it.”

Krone agreed the exhibit was welcoming to all.

“I did enjoy seeing how diverse the crowd was when I was at the exhibit,” Krone said. “There seemed to be people from many backgrounds in many different stages of life.”

However, Krone noted the price of the tickets decreased the exhibit’s accessibility.

For UT students looking for a more affordable art option, Krone said the Blanton Museum of Art is a perfect place to start.

Katie Bruton, public relations and media manager for the Blanton, said the museum aims to make art accessible for UT students by providing free admission with a UT ID.

“Making art more accessible encompasses so many things — language, access, representation, education,” Bruton said. “In order to serve Austin’s diverse communities, we are constantly evaluating and working to remove barriers to experiencing art.”

The Beyond Van Gogh Experience will be in Austin until August 8th, but that is not the end for St-Arnaud’s new medium of light-casting art.

“It can expand to so many subjects,” said St-Arnaud. “We’re working on Monet right now; mid-August in Toronto, Canada, is the world premiere.”

St-Arnaud said through his exhibits, he hopes to change the public’s perception of art.

“We’re trying to create something midway,” he said. “I would consider it a personal victory if one person who saw Beyond Van Gogh at one point in their life sees there’s a museum in their city and says ‘I never felt it was for me, but now I know more, and I’ll go in and see the art’.”