For the first time ever, Refinery 29 took their interactive exhibit, 29Rooms, on the road and this year’s theme, “Expand Your Reality”, promised to “connect you to your curiosity and unlock your sense of wonder through mind-bending creativity and bold collaborations.”
The DC event took place at the DC Armory with installations that were a mishmash of art, activism, marketing and corporate sponsorship under the Refinery29 brand. The exhibit allowed visitors to meander through 29 distinct experiences created by local DC artists Kali Uchis, Yvette Mayorga, NNEKKA and many others.
Here is a quick overview of the installations that really caught my eye:
- Dream Doorways (Collaboration with Kali Uchis): This room put you in a surreal alternate universe to interpret your thoughts, dreams and unconscious.
- 29 Questions: This room was a social experiment that asked visitors to disconnect from technology and engage with a stranger by asking each other questions.
- The Art Park (Collaboration with Yvette Mayorga, Dan Lam, NNEKKAA, Hanski, and Trap Bob): A climbable staircase that created a canvas that explored unique ways of showcasing art through playful and creative composition.
- Dance Break: This room got people dancing by offering up an awesome soundtrack.
- A Long Line of Queendom (Collaboration with Unbothered): This room was a celebration of and dedication to Black millennial women and the truths that make up their experiences.
In terms of corporate sponsorship, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) did the experience better than others. ACLU’s exhibit, The Values Stand, was an Andy Warhol-like “news stand” that fit in seamlessly with Refinery 29 branding. It pushed a message of community activism by getting people to pledge to better their communities through voting and signing up for ACLU’s community volunteer teams.
Other brand sponsorships at the event felt a little out of place at the exhibit and there seemed to be a disconnect between the sponsor’s brand and the Refinery 29 brand.
Personally, I believe the intent of the exhibit was to showcase the art and create space for conversation about the cultural landscape and political climate. But in reality, I don’t think that 29Rooms pushed enough to expand that conversation, rather it offered up an opportunity for people to take selfies with corporately branded art.
With that being said, the event was a really fun time. It provided a great introduction to the creativity of some of DC’s best artists and I now have enough selfies to get me through the next few months of #throwbackthursdays.