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‘Otherworldly’ Immersive Art Experience Coming to Columbus

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman ‘Otherworldly’ Immersive Art Experience Coming to ColumbusOtherworld forest scene concept art. All images courtesy of Otherworld.
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You could call it a large-scale art installation or an immersive art experience, but regardless, Otherworld — a 25,000 square foot immersive art attraction coming soon to Columbus — is highly ambitious.

The attraction is centered around a sci-fi narrative reminiscent of TV shows and films like Westworld and Jurassic World, where a common theme involves a corporate entity offering otherworldly tourism experiences with hidden motives or consequences. This is a theme of Otherworld as well, as visitors arrive as beta-testers for an alternate realm tourist attraction with a hidden agenda.

The Otherworld team is made up of more than 20 creatives with backgrounds in technology, sculpture, 3D design, digital fabrication, and other visual media, while their work has contributed to theme parks, art installations, haunted houses, and museum exhibits. Nikos Rutkowski, Otherworld’s prop lead, has done large-scale commercial works for clients including HighBall Halloween, BrewDog, and Ohio State. Ilya Pieper, the attraction’s digital fabrication lead, has built installations for Burning Man and SXSW.

Pieper, in particular, has longed for creating more immersive installations.

“I got so bored of everyone just standing and staring, instead of creating a space where strangers would have to interact with each other,” she says. “It’s like bringing video games to life so you’re not stuck [in front of] the screen, you’re actually living inside of it.”

Exterior and Interior renderings of Otherworld by Tim Lai Architects.

Otherworld Creative Director Jordan Renda has built haunted houses and escape rooms for 10 years, but has wanted to create a higher production version for some time. He and the team have been inspired by art installations and exhibits at St. Louis’ City Museum, 29Rooms in New York, and by arts company Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf, in particular, is a pioneer in creating large-scale art installations and storytelling experiences.

However, Otherworld is taking interactive art installations to a completely new level. Visitors will move through more than 50 immersive scenes filled with interactive art, special effects, puzzles, playgrounds, and secret passageways. Similar to a “choose your own adventure” game, each scene will uncover pieces of a larger narrative, with some experiences only accessible through trial and error; interacting with each room uncovers hidden rooms, scenes, and details that cannot all be experienced in just one visit.

Experiment lab art concept.

Tech Director Phil Liddell’s previous work has included designing and building interactive exhibits for children’s museums, and working with arts collective Pure F*cking Magic to create audio and visual experiences for clients like COSI, among others. But Otherworld is a chance for Liddell to use technology in a completely new way.

“I’m excited about some of the weirder interactives. They’re a little bit more experimental,” he says. “And we’re gonna do some things with projectors that I’m pretty sure no one’s done before.”

Otherworld will implement three to four miles of LED lights, 52 interactive projectors, projection and LED mapping, plus custom-built PCs, microcomputers the size of a credit card, and other advanced technologies. At the same time, Liddell says his goal is to make technology an afterthought to Otherworld’s overall experience, only becoming apparent in scenes where technology is “made bigger than itself.”

Other huge elements to Otherworld’s design are a 20-foot tree with branches reaching out 28 feet in diameter and interactive LEDs and fiber optics responsive to movement; and a 20-foot tall cave featuring a giant, 19-eyed, motion sensing creature.

Some of the more “medium-sized” sculptures mid-build. Photos by Taijuan Moorman.

“We’re really trying to create a well-rounded experience,” says Art Director Leland Drexler-Russell. “It takes in some of our backgrounds in more of the creepy side of things, and some of our backgrounds on the more fluffy side of things and kind of creates one cohesive installation.”

“We have some installations that like, a five year old can literally change the entire room around them,” he continues, “and giving someone that young that level of control I think is something really special.”

The team is shooting for a December opening, just in time for the holiday season. They’re also planning pop-up installations at Franklinton Fridays and HighBall for the public to get its first real glimpse of what Otherworld has in store.

“There’s a lot of people looking for the arts and entertainment, and things to do along those lines. And there’s not a ton of it,” says Renda. “We’re trying to attract people from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati — we all wholeheartedly believe it’s going to be worth the drive. I mean, there’s nothing else like this.”

Otherworld will be located at 5918 Chantry Drive. For more information on Otherworld visit otherworldohio.com.

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