Arts / Galleries

Austin Gets a New Art Wonderland — How Two Marines Created an Interactive, Instagram-Worthy Sensation

Everything You Need to Know About Wonderspaces

BY Anna Votaw // 01.13.21
photography Anna Votaw

A new interactive exhibit land called Wonderspaces is shaking up the Austin art scene. Jason Shin and Patrick Charles co-founded Wonderspaces, Inc. in 2016, and it’s found success with art gallery installations in Scottsdale, Philadelphia, San Diego and now Austin.

Shin Graduated from Yale and MIT and served as a communications officer with the United States Marine Corp. Charles, a graduate of the University of Scranton and Vlerick Business School, also was with The Marines, and has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, Booz Allen Hamilton and TomorrowLab.

The new Wonderspaces has taken over a 28,000-square-foot warehouse in North Austin near the Heritage Hills neighborhood.

“We pay our artists to show their worth, whereas a lot of art galleries would charge a fee,” assistant general manager Caitlin Graham tells PaperCity. “We are in a pandemic, so a lot of the festivals are closed, and a lot of the big fairs. . . Burning Man is not happening. Coachella is not happening.”

“All these (places where) people can showcase their work don’t exist right now, so we have a lot of people reaching out saying, ‘please show my work.'”

This new Austin retreat is a space where artists can share their work — a commodity that’s sadly lacking during these COVID-19 times.  Precautionary measures include mandatory masks for visitors and team members alike, hand-sanitizing stations, intensive regular cleanings, and capping capacity at 108 people.

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Wonderspaces Austin currently showcases 12 pieces. The plan is to switch out two to three pieces every few months, keeping things fresh and allowing as many people as possible to see the art despite the capacity limits.

Let’s take a closer look at what Wonderspaces has to offer:

“Bodypaint” by Memo Akten paints colors with movement – we had a lot of fun moving around and watching the colors change!
Have your very own Picasso moment with Memo Akten’s “Body Paint” that changes colors with movement.

Inside Wonderspaces

Memo Akten‘s motion-sensor art piece splatters paint on a giant projector screen when visitors walk in front of it, encouraging interaction and expression through physical movement. Akten specializes in storytelling in an electronic medium, incorporating AI and machine learning, light, sound, mobile, performance, science and nature, VR/AR, and open-source and commercial platforms. 

Squidsoup’s “Submergence” is popular with the visitors because of its mesmerizing color-changing lights. (Photo by Anna Votaw )
Squidsoup’s “Submergence” is popular with the visitors because of its mesmerizing color-changing lights. (Photo by Anna Votaw )

UK-based group Squidsoup — which consists of Anthony Rowe, Gaz Bushell, Liam Birtles, Chris Bennewith and Ollie Bown — collaborated to make “Submergence.” The piece consists of 8,064 individually programmed lights that synchronize with music. Visitors can interact with the art by walking through or lying underneath the lights. 

“I love just sitting in the cafe and watching it over and over again,” Graham says. “It feels like the closest thing to a concert I can get right now — especially when it crescendos towards the end.”  

“Thank You Bags” by Reed van Brunschot is one of the most photographed pieces.
“Thank You Bags” by Reed van Brunschot is one of the most photographed pieces at Wonderspaces, and a Pop art moment of delight.

Instagram favorite “Thank You Bags,” showcases two hand-painted, larger-than-life plastic bags that are blown constantly by hanging fans. Artist Reed Van Brunschot wanted to increase the size of a well-known object to make an important statement about the earth.

“This piece is the excess of capitalism and its residual environmental waste by being caught in its beauty,” Brunschot says. 

The interactive piece by Matthew Matthew's "On a Human Scale" is a hit with visitors looking to harmonize.
The interactive piece by Matthew Matthew’s “On a Human Scale” is a hit with visitors looking to harmonize.

Matthew Matthew’s piece “On a Human Scale” incorporates videos of everyday New Yorkers singing various tones. The voices play when visitors press keys on the connected piano. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the highly interactive piece. Musicians can showcase their ability with a twist, and beginners can play around and just enjoy the voices.

“On a Human Scale” is also highly collaborative. During my visit, people clustered together to listen to others play, allowing everyone to connect. This is what Wonderspaces is all about.

Wonderspaces is located 1205 Sheldon Cove, Suite 2-A, Ticket prices range from $15 to 25. You can find more information and tickets here.

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