Getting Immersive and Interactive in Downtown Albuquerque

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Technology allows us to communicate with our refrigerators and washing machines, but what if we could also speak with the tables and walls? Well, that's exactly what one might expect at a StoryLab Interactive event.

The company offers experiences that are part-theater, part-multisensory-tech at their 4,000-square foot location in Downtown Albuquerque. They will simulate a gently floating spaceship for a social event on Feb. 7 to kick off the first evening of the West Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit.

The summit will bring together artists, community development professionals, planners, architects, philanthropists, and designers from a 10-state area for a three-day, deep-dive learning experience.

StoryLab is just two years old and among the innovative enterprises that are enlivening Downtown Albuquerque. "Being able to help StoryLab find a vacant site for their fully immersive experience business became an anchor in our Art Walk Friday's artists program within One Albuquerque" said Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller. "We are thrilled with the sold-out success for their past events!" he added.

The theme for the social event is "Space Returns Social: A Journey Through the Cosmos." Sherri Brueggeman, Co-founder of the InterGalactic Cultural Relations Institute, is organizing the fête. Brueggeman serves as the city's Public Art Urban Enhancement Division Manager by day, and is one of the key organizers of local events at the summit. Imagining intergalactic relations within the cosmos keeps her occupied after hours.

“Imagining the role of arts and culture in outer space provides a fun but serious framework for understanding how creative expression is a unique human trait that helps us belong, share, relate and believe in both real and imaginary 'others' – other beings, other places, other times. StoryLab’s creation of an immersive outer space venue is the perfect inspiration for imaging oneself actually in outer space!”

Videos of StoryLab events, which are customized for each occasion, show people chatting and consuming drinks in a dark room with luminous walls and floors reminiscent of the spaceship in Star Trek. According to Theresa Kitt, Studio Director for StoryLab, the developers have been champing at the bit to do a space-themed event. Interactive elements will include a table that "reacts" to diners. "As you reach over to get a drink or lift your fork to put food in your mouth the table reacts to you. You can also wave your hands over the table to see the interactions as well, " Kitt said.

The company also customized experiences for events with the following themes: gourmet food, coastlines, Europe, the elements (earth, wind, fire, ice and water), winter and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The owner, John-Mark Collins, is a software engineer and creative technologist by training and created the company two years ago. It has since grown into a thriving venture. The company hopes to open up a larger venue with an interactive playground soon, Kitt said.

"I have always wanted to activate physical spaces with digital content, allowing the visitor to that space to be an active participant in an immersive digital experience," Collins said.  "With the advancement of augmented reality,  projection technology and motion tracking systems, the timing was right to step out and try to put a new spin on interactive activations."

The social event at StoryLab is part of a week-long itinerary of events for before, during and after the Summit. The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking and ArtPlace America are producing the Summit in partnership with the City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico. The event will be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The final day will feature field workshops to the historic Barelas neighborhood, and a separate workshop will take participants to the Historic Abq Railyards Redevelopment.

Leadership Summits draw professionals from diverse disciplines who unite around the idea that arts and cultural programming improve places. Creative placemaking is an emerging field and a fresh approach to meeting social challenges with creative answers that always include an artist in the decision-making process.

Albuquerque’s inaugural poet laureate, Hakim Bellamy , will present alternative community policing methods using young people of color, law enforcement officials and a licensed behavioral health professional.

Creative placemakers from more distant states and various disciplines will also discuss their work. Those who think there’s a role for dance in improving places will be interested in a workshop presented by a group from Austin, TX. And from Utah, a group of the Diné Bikéyah will describe how they serve the grassroots communities of the five Tribes of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which includes artists. The Executive Director of Colorado Creative Industries will lead a peer exchange on how the arts address social needs in rural communities and urban neighborhoods.

At the conclusion, participants can hop on the Rail Runner for a 90-minute train ride to Santa Fe for a hands-on field trip that will include additional workshops at the Santa Fe Art Institute. Plans also include a flamenco performance by the internationally-renowned Vicente

Griego at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Summit-goers will also have the opportunity to attend other pre- and post-summit activities that will celebrate New Mexico's unique history, art and culture. For a full list and to register for one or all of the activities, please visit .

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