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A World of WNDR

The world-class immersive art museum sets up shop in San Diego this winter
Ken Schluchtmann

By Helen I. Hwang

a world of wndr, exhibit

WNDR’s interactive and multimedia exhibits will be a game-changer for arts in downtown San Diego.

Ken Schluchtmann

Poetry whispered to visitors standing in a secret spot, a room lit with the Northern lights: WNDR is coming to San Diego. The brand-new immersive contemporary arts museum is landing in the Gaslamp Quarter with innovative, interactive multimedia exhibits designed to invoke wonder, hence the museum’s name.

WNDR isn’t just going to be a spot for Instagram selfies, promises David Allen, museum curator and head of its studio. But “you’ll definitely be able to take good photos,” he says.

“It’s a space to showcase incredible art with projection mapping, lights, words, and poetry,” explains Allen. Original, cutting-edge works from established and pioneering artists are on their way. Like a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room, in which visitors step into an immersive reality-altering other dimension.

And for its first time in the U.S., Insideout — the award- winning multimedia piece from German-based artist Leigh Sachwitz + flora&faunavision — will premiere in San Diego. The 360-degree immersive light and sound simulation “shatters” the illusion of walls and ceilings.

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In Insideout, Satchwitz recalls her childhood in her granny’s garden shed in Scotland where she found refuge from the mercurial weather. There, black skies would open up and hard rain would come down in droves, whipping wind lashing at window panes. Then suddenly, dazzling sunshine would part the clouds as if it had been a glorious day all along. “It reminds visitors to be present and enjoy the moment,” says Allen, who is an artist himself (in particular, he’s an acclaimed post- mastectomy tattooist).

WNDR is set to be an awe-inspiring, magical place where the guests become part of each exhibit. Visitors turn on switches or set off sensors. No two people will have exactly the same experience as they become part of the digital canvas, stresses Allen.

In 2018, WNDR started in Chicago as a pop-up before becoming a brick-and-mortar site. “We’re building on the foundation we have in Chicago and bringing WNDR to cities that align with our community,” says Ryan Kunkel, president of WNDR Global.

San Diego is only the second location. Allen says they chose San Diego for the vibrant arts community and tourists who flock here for the weather and conventions. In 2023, WNDR is set to also open museums in Seattle and Boston.

Taking over the Broker’s Building on Market, WNDR will fill 14,000 square feet with more than two dozen exhibits, spanning from floor to ceiling. The arts hub will have a fully-licensed bar and café. They’ll host artists’ talks and community events. Rotating exhibits will include works from Jimmy Iovine’s and Dr. Dre’s students at their USC academy. The “hub-and-spoke” floor layout allows visitors to meander and be curious.

“Curiosity is the beginning of empathy,” Allen says.

WNDR museum opens on December 1 with ticket sales starting on November 1.

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