Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

WNDR museum cultivates interactive exhibits at Downtown Crossing location

The WNDR Museum opened its doors to student journalists from the area for “College Press Night,” showcasing many of the museum’s interactive and immersive exhibits.
DJ Mara
One of the last exhibits in the WNDR Museum, titled “We Are All Artists (If Only We Knew?)” by Brad Keywell. The exhibit reminds visitors that they are all artists, creators, and visionaries in their own unique ways. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

The WNDR Museum, one of Boston’s newest attractions, cultivates visitors’ sense of wonder and imagination through a series of interactive and immersive exhibits. 

Located in Downtown Crossing at 500 Washington Street, WNDR opened its doors to the Boston community on Feb. 1. The museum is comprised of more than 20 exhibits, each taking visitors through a mesmerizing virtual experience. Many exhibits are curated by WNDR Studios, the museum’s internal design team, though different artists create others. The company also has locations in Chicago and San Diego. 

From first appearance, WNDR is a must-see for children, college students, and adults alike, igniting a sense of awe or child-like play in each person passing through. Walking by the museum, it looked like a typical brick building with banners designating its location. Upon walking through the main entrance, however, I was transported to an interactive universe right on Emerson’s doorstep. 

In an interview with the Beacon, WNDR’s Chief Experience Officer Brian Haines emphasized that the museum’s central location in Boston allows visitors to experience the indoor exhibits while still spending a day in the city. 

“[WNDR] is a place where you can come spend an hour to three hours escaping from the outside world to disappear in your own sense of wonder,” said Haines.

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  • Giancarlo Natale, General Manager of WNDR Boston, poses outside the museum’s main entrance after an interview with the Beacon on April 3. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

  • Brian Haines, Chief Experience Officer of WNDR, poses in the “Obliteration Room,” where guests place colorful stickers on white walls representing splatters of paint on a blank canvas. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Upon walking into the museum, guests are immediately greeted by “WNDR Flowers,” a collection of LED flowers serving as a collaborative display between artist and interior designer Andrew Alford and “kids of WNDR.” Hues of nearly every color of the rainbow make up each flower, with caricatures of an insect or even Pikachu in every flower’s center, making attendees want to “collect them all.” 

The Light Floor,” built in collaboration with BrightLogic, is an interactive exhibit in which each human touch creates a colorful reaction throughout the floor display. Walking across the floor illuminated my figure with colorful lights as if I was dancing a number in “Mamma Mia” or “Saturday Night Fever.”

Flex,” created by Austin Watson and Pedro Neves, is a fabric cloth that reacts to the pressure of each touch, emitting various color combinations. The texture of the fabric me feel as if I was touching a new piece of clothing. “Magnetic Symphony” is a collection of wires split into ten sections that make different sounds when tin cans are placed against them.

 “MPO-1 (Time Machine)” by Joshua Ellingson displays the Pepper’s Ghost illusion technique, developed by scientist John Henry Pepper and first used in theater in 1862. Pepper’s Ghost is a method that uses a strategically angled mirror to project an image or video, making it appear as if it were an actual 3D object. It was very interesting to see how technology, particularly that used in film-making, has drastically evolved since Pepper’s Ghost was first invented. 

INSIDEOUT,” a collaboration between Studio Leigh Sachwitz and flora&faunavisions, takes individuals through a simulation of a thunderstorm, with strobe lights simulating lightning and colorful projections simulating the “calm after the storm.” One of the more captivating exhibits in the museum, INSIDEOUT shows that there is always sunshine or a rainbow after life’s many storms. I felt particularly mesmerized by the sunrise after the storm, which projected orange and yellow lights onto all objects and people inside the makeshift house.

The “Living Gallery” is a series of interactive photos that come to life as people get close to the frames. While looking into a photo’s eyes, the figure may smile back or give a dirty look, with the possibilities virtually endless. It was very interesting– and funny at times– to have figures nearly jump out of their picture frames while interacting with me on the other side.  “Lake Shore Drive (LSD)” morphs many neuron-like structures to mimic the outline of those standing in front of the screen, making attendees look as if they were part of a blue, orange, and yellow honeycomb.

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  • A scene from inside WNDR Boston’s “Immersive Theater,” which features a collection of 360° interactive content. Beanbags are located across the theater for guests to sit back and bask in the sounds and scenery. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

The “Immersive Theater,” arguably the most prominent and relaxing exhibit at the museum, features a collection of 360-degree interactive content. Beanbags are positioned around the edges of the theater, inviting attendees to take a seat, bask in the sounds, and experience their “sixth sense” of wonder. 

Untitled, By You” is an AI-powered exhibit that creates artificial images based on prompts sent through an iPad. After prompts are entered, an identical image pops up on five identical vertical screens.  The prompt “political rally fighting for positive change” generated an image of thousands of people holding signs in a wide open space fighting for the rights of those around them. 

While walking by “The Wisdom Project,” it was amazing to see an evolving installation that asks each visitor to write on a piece of paper something “that you know for sure,” to the wall. Thoughts added to the wall include “Be the change you wish to see in this world,” “Slay the house down,” and “We are not free until we are all free.” 

Speak Up” features a wall of red phones, each with a recording of a different activist at the other end of the line. “Dream Sequence” by Patrick Ethen is a ring of LED lights casting colorful shadows onto those passing by. “Let’s Survive Forever” by Yayoi Kusama takes visitors into a mirrored room for sixty seconds where they can see an infinite number of depictions of themselves in the circular and flat mirrors throughout the exhibit. Attendees truly see their reflections going on forever. 

Insta-Nonsense” features an endless scroll of Instagram feeds on a wall containing more than 20  frames that beg the question of how passersby use social media. “Glorious Vision of a Rainbow” by Andy Arkley prompts visitors to press buttons on a control panel, each corresponding to a certain sound that lights up a specific portion of the painting on the opposite wall. Sounds include angelic chants, various instrument sounds, and others coming out of a dubstep song. 

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  • “Iris,” by WNDR Studios, allows guests to have a photograph of their pupil taken and displayed in an interactive exhibit on two adjacent walls of the museum. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Iris” allows visitors to take a close-up photo of their eye, which is then displayed in a collage showing just how intricate eyes are. In the “Obliteration Room,” guests are each given a colorful sticker to place anywhere in the room, with a collection of stickers representing paint splatters on a white canvas. 

As guests walk toward the last exhibit of the museum, they are met by an installation titled “We Are All Artists (If Only We Knew?)” by Brad Keywell, which reminds each guest that they are an artist, creator, and visionary in their unique way. The museum’s final exhibit, “Color & Light,” is a room of paint swatches with yellow light hiding their uniqueness. At specific points, the yellow light turns off, revealing some of the many colors that make art—and arguably life—so beautiful. 

Giancarlo Natale, the general manager of WNDR’s Boston location, noted that WNDR is a different experience than visiting a more traditional art museum. 

“At this art museum, you can look, you can hear, and you get submerged in the art,” said Natale in an interview with the Beacon. “It’s not your typical look-at-a-painting art, but rather, something different.”

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DJ Mara
DJ Mara, Kasteel Well Bureau Co-Editor

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