New Oklahoma City Installation Immerses Its Visitors In Art

Nov 14, 2017

A new immersive art project could help drive business to a shopping area and create economic opportunities for Oklahoma City artists.

Factory Obscura, a collective of artists, created an installation called SHIFT at Current Studio at 1218 N. Pennsylvania Ave. The art installation encourages visitors to “physically explore the full-sensory environment,” according to  Current Studio’s website.

The project’s founders are Laura Massenat, Laurent Massenat, Tammy Greenman, Hugh Meade and Thomas Thompson, and Kelsey Karper is SHIFT’s curator.

Molly Fleming writes in the Journal Record that the project was modeled after Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Artists who worked on Meow Wolf were paid for their efforts. Karper said she and Owens were excited about the payment aspect because that’s been one of their goals with Current Studio. They offer a $2,500 stipend for their artist in residence.

“Our whole idea is we want to experiment with new models, looking at how we can present knew forms of art and support artists in ways that are not happening in Oklahoma City,” she said.

Fleming told KGOU that the creators of SHIFT think the project will create jobs for artists, and provide people with a new entertainment option that currently doesn’t exist in Oklahoma City. Fleming says it could potentially help neighboring businesses.

“When people have to seek out these types of places they're likely to stay nearby and have a meal or shop the other stores. It's a benefit to the center on North Penn to have this traffic driver open,” Fleming said.

SHIFT will be set up until February 25, 2018. Afterward, Factory Obscura hope to move it to a permanent location. They are currently seeking investors to raise $15 to $20 million to cover rent and payment to artists.

“If Factory Obscura charges admission as a new exhibit, that means investors could see a return,” Fleming said. “Laura [Massenat] said they don't expect it to be a problem to get investors because there are so many people who already support the arts. And Factory Obscura gives them a chance to support the arts and then get money back for that.”

Factory Obsura’s founders believe their project could be profitable because there is already precedent - Meow Wolf reported that it generated $6.3 million in revenue during its first year of operation.


Jacob McCleland: It's the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland. I'm talking today with Molly Fleming. She's a reporter for the Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you so much for joining us.

Molly Fleming: Hey thanks for having me.

McCleland: Well I want to talk to you about an article you wrote about Factory Obscura. The venture's first exhibit is called Shift and this is an immersive art project where people get to walk around and inside the art. I mean first give us a description of what it's like to visit Factory Obscura.

Fleming: Well I haven't been but from the photos I've seen there's color and different textures all around you. This isn't a gallery exhibit. It's like traveling through the door in Alice in Wonderland. There are things moving and flashing, glowing. As they say in Aladdin, "It's a cave of wonders."

McCleland: What's the idea of Factory Obscura based on?

Fleming: This is based on Meow Wolf which is an immersive art exhibit in Santa Fe New Mexico. It has had more than 600,000 visitors since March 2016. And I looked up its location on Google Maps. I'm not that familiar with Santa Fe, and I was like oh this must be you know really popular site. And actually it's in a warehouse area. There's a brewery nearby but it's certainly not in a place where you would stumble upon it while visiting in another shopping center.

McCleland: Well tell us a little bit about Factory Obscura's location because you describe this area where it's located that as "not so popular." Why is that the way you chose to describe it?

Fleming: Well it's not it's not just Chisel Creek or Quail Springs Mall. It's an area that's highly trafficked. Current Studio has been there for a couple of years so they you know they host events and have artists come by. I've been there for an art showing. But it's not you know it's a district or anything like that. So it's actually on Penn and about 12th Street. So it's it's almost in near the Plaza District but it's north of Tenth Street. So that makes Shift the destination. And when people have to seek out these types of places they're likely to stay nearby and have a meal or shop the other stores. It's a benefit to the center on North Penn to have this traffic driver open.

McCleland: So two of the big drivers behind this project are Laura and Laurent Massenat. Why did they decide to invest in this project?

Fleming: So the Massenats like to bring ideas to Oklahoma City that we don't have large mass not was you know the founder one of the founders of Elemental and she was a co-founder of H&8th, food truck event that we used to have once a month. So Laura said she thinks this idea will work for several reasons. Two of which are, one, it gives artists a job and could keep those artists here rather than having them leave the state. Two, it's a different entertainment experience and people are looking for ways to spend their entertainment dollars. She mentioned that you know bowling and miniature golf have been around for a long time and people know what to do something else and so this is a great way to go see that. But just a side note is that Shift is free. You can go see it anytime. There are certain hours but it is free.

McCleland: You mentioned Meow Wolf in New Mexico earlier. Has that project been been profitable?

Fleming: Oh yes, extremely. It's made more than seven million dollars in revenue to date. So Meow Wolf is becoming a kind of a production company and that they've done exhibits in other in other states. And then they're getting into, you know, making films and videos and stuff like that.

McCleland: One of the people behind the project says that they want to create a new economic system for how artists are paid in Oklahoma City. What does she mean by that?

Fleming: Kelsey Karper, who is one of the co-owners of Current Studio where Shift is housed wants artists to be paid for their work. There's a lot of discussion in the creative world about artists doing work for free so they get exposure. But you can't pay your bills with exposure. So the idea is to recruit artists and pay them for building it. This will likely provides for a better product as well because people aren't just volunteering. They are artists that are getting financially supported to do their work. So take a lot of pride in making sure it's done well.

McCleland: How did the Massenats and others who were behind this project how do they envision this project long term?

Fleming: So the idea is to move Shift to a permanent location and then gather investors to continue to support another art installment. So if Factory Obscura charges admission as a new exhibit that means investors could see a return. Laura said they don't expect it to be a problem to get investors because there are so many people who already support the arts. And Factory Obscura gives them a chance to support the arts and then get money back for that.

McCleland: We've been talking with Molly Fleming. She's a reporter with The Journal Record newspaper. Molly thank you so much.

Fleming: Hey you're welcome.

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