Museum security guards intimidate patrons into a respectful distance from collections. At a new Kentuck Art Center experience, “StoryTangle,” Bigfoot will be on hand to ensure you do touch, see and hear the magical library, and its contents, where, as in the plot central to all stories: Something Happened.
“It’s a combination of an escape room, an art exhibit and Disney World,” said Sherri Warner, one of the Kentuck artists who collaborated to build “StoryTangle.” Somewhat like the Barbie Dream House now running at the Birmingham Museum of Art, “StoryTangle” is an immersive experience, a trending idea for arts and artists.
“It’s really an art environment,” said Ashley Williams, marketing manager at Kentuck. “I think it’ll take a minute to warm up to the idea that you are supposed to touch the art, which is why I’ve been including ‘Please DO touch the art’ in all the marketing, to kind of prime people to be a little bit prepared that this is not the usual exhibit.”
“StoryTangle” opens Thursday night, concurrent with Art Night, in the Georgine Clarke Building’s SoNo Gallery. While the first-Thursday Art Night continues to be free of charge, the “StoryTangle” experience will require a $7 charge, to help recoup costs.
Warner helped cook the idea up about eight months ago, after a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment collective which specializes in walk-through, live-through experiences such as this.
“Meow Wolf is very digital, a lot of sound, a lot of lights,” said Warner, also Kentuck’s director of experiences. “Ours is more of an analog version of that; we had a cardboard and duct-tape budget.”
The Kentuck artists chose a literary theme, for familiarity and creative leeway, in which books and characters come to life, mix and mingle in unusual ways, Alice with Wild Things, glass slippers for a Bigfoot.
Warner derived inspiration from writer Terry Pratchett, who posited “L-space” at the heart of Unseen University’s magical library, overseen by an orangutan, who used to be a wizard, but found the long limbs helpful for shelving. The abbreviated quote, from “Guards! Guards!” runs “Knowledge equals power … power equals energy … energy equals matter…matter equals mass. And mass distorts space. It distorts it into polyfractal L-space.”
In the Clarke Building space, adjacent to Kentuck’s main building at 503 Main Ave., in downtown Northport, Warner and Kentuck studio artists Kerry Kennedy, Neel Alexander and Kunkle joined with intern Sawyer Hobbs and art student Ashia Winston to create various elements of “StoryTangle.”
“We had so many great ideas, it was hard to narrow them down,” Warner said, so each contributing artist constructed a segment, and Alexander painted for all of them. Though the project has been percolating for months, much construction happened in recent days, following the autumn buildup to the center’s biggest event, the October Kentuck Festival of the Arts, for which all studio artists are required to participate.
Patrons can play inside “StoryTangle” as individuals, or bring friends. Some interactive elements, like the random sentence generator — words popping up on ping-pong balls — could work well with a group pooling efforts. Someone will always be on hand during “StoryTangle” hours to encourage interaction.
And befitting this warped literary portal, the “StoryTangle” experience will itself change and add on, as the weeks go by, Warner said.
“Nobody’s experience is going to be exactly the same,” Williams said. “We hope everyone comes up with their own hypothesis about what has really happened in the library, because there’s no perfect answer.”
After Thursday night’s opening from 5-9 p.m., “StoryTangle” will be open weekends until Dec. 13: 5-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 1-9 p.m. Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. It’ll close for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. Admission will be $7 at the door. For more, call 758-1257, or see www.kentuck.org.