A New Immersive Experience at the Nelson-Atkins

Visitors to the Bloch Impressionist Galleries at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on Friday evenings can enjoy an enhanced experience of the museum’s Impressionist masterworks through a new immersive program incorporating sound and light.(photo by Dana Anderson)

“A Beautiful Disruption: Experiencing the Bloch Galleries,” a new immersive experience at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, provides visitors with a deeper understanding of one of the most popular art movements of all time — French Impressionism. Through a roughly 12-minute program incorporating sound and light offered on Friday evenings, viewers explore a series of both familiar and not so familiar paintings by Cézanne, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, van Gogh and others.

After gathering at the Bloch Impressionist Galleries, visitors receive a brief introduction before being led through the galleries by shifting paths of light — appropriate for Impressionist and Postimpressionist painters, for whom light was everything — and hear the words of the artists against a backdrop of music and sound effects.

The sound effects are at times soothing, at other times stormy, while the words of the artists convey vulnerability, disappointment, self-doubt, despair, and, ultimately, the joy
of creation.

“Creativity is very often borne out of hardship,” Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director and CEO, observed. “This group of artists broke new ground in their approach to representation. Critics derided them for their hazy, ‘impressionist’ art-making, yet they pushed through these and many other setbacks and became some of the period’s most important artists.”

The Nelson-Atkins engaged Art Processors, an international award-winning company with a reputation for enhancing visitor experiences, to help create “A Beautiful Disruption.”

“This is a giant experiment the Nelson-Atkins has undertaken to challenge assumptions around what kinds of experiences you can have in museum galleries,” said Christine Murray, content director, and the company’s creative lead for this project. “This is not about quietly walking up to an artwork, reading the label, listening to an audio guide, and moving on. This is something more visceral and emotional.”

“A Beautiful Disruption” will likely leave viewers wanting to know more about the artists and their works. No doubt paintings such as Degas’ “Ballet Dancers” and Monet’s “Water Lilies” will continue to remain favorites, but perhaps new insights provided by this program will lead to greater appreciation of what is behind lesser-known, but provocative, works such as van Gogh’s “Study of a Peasant’s Head.”

More information can be found in the French Paintings Catalogue on the museum’s website. A museum guide is provided for teachers, and an accessibility guide with the text of the narration is available for the hearing impaired.

“A Beautiful Disruption: Experiencing the Bloch Galleries” is offered Friday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. through the end of June at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak St. Guests must reserve a spot through the museum website, www.nelson-atkins.org.

Bryan F. Le Beau

Bryan F. Le Beau is retired from the University of Saint Mary, where he served as Professor of History, Provost, and Vice President for Academic Affairs. He is the author of several books on American cultural and religious history.

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