Otherworld, a new immersive exhibit in Columbus, has become an outlet for creativity.
By Maya Mattan, ’20 and Alexa Roberts, ’20
A world of storytelling, science, art, fantasy, technology, passageways, mazes, mystery and discovery have merged into one, creating Otherworld.
Otherworld is more than just another destination for a photoshoot or photo-inspired afternoon, it’s an interactive museum with a collection of over 40 different rooms and themes waiting to be experienced and investigated.
Founded by Jordan Renda, Otherworld was influenced by haunted attractions and escape rooms. Renda “wanted to push this whole interactive, immersive world to the next level.”
The Ohio State University graduate gathered over 100 people: artists, engineers, fabricators and designers all collaborated in efforts to produce this exhibit in Columbus. This three-year process took different artists’ skill sets, aesthetic looks and influences, as well as a year and a half of planning and about a year and a half of execution and building.
Otherworld is an escape from the world and reality emphasized by the background story of its meaning that Renda created. His story originates from a make-up company, Other World Industries.
Operations director John Umland said, “Other World Industries was an old tech firm that created a way to get dreams out of people’s minds and bring them into the real world. Things got out of hand and what guests are here to explore is the leftover random of this otherworldly place that all these dreams kind of opened up into.”
This exhibition is targeted for all age ranges.
“The goal was to make the space immersive and fun and accessible in ways that a traditional museum isn’t. Because of that, we try to build an experience that will be fun for children, adults and other people,” Umland said.
Visitors are encouraged to explore and interact throughout. Senior Tyra Turner visited this addition in Columbus over the summer after seeing it on social media and was fascinated.
“It was pretty cool. There [were] a lot of hidden things,” Turner said. “I could go through it multiple times and still find new things to discover.”
Columbus was chosen for this permanent, large-scale 32,000 square foot art installation because of its community and audience in the city.
“We want to bring these kinds of places and this kind of experience to as many people as possible. As of right now, we’re the first here in Columbus,” Umland said. “I think the biggest reason for Columbus was we felt like the audience here would be ready for something like this. Columbus is a big city with a thriving art scene, and we just thought there’d be a lot of people who’d be interested in trying something out like this, looking for something new.”
Although this is a permanent installment, rooms are expected to slightly change as well as full room modifications in the future. Rooms are cleaned weekly and interactions, sculpture pieces and puzzle solutions are replaced throughout and changed in small ways. The goal is to find new and different ways to use the space. A full team of artists and staff come to refurbish.
“We do have some unopened rooms and some places that we’re developing right now that will open up in time. The goal is to keep the space fresh and interesting. If you keep coming back, you find a little different stuff each time,” Umland said.
Apart from the museum itself, a cafe, a gift shop and an art room called Otherworld Makes have been recently added. Artists who created Otherworld, help others develop their own mini version of the exhibit. “Basically, the idea is we wanted to give people an opportunity to create their own little Otherworld inspired piece of art,” Umland said. Events have also been held with DJs, dance parties and bands who perform inside the space.
“The idea during these events is that you can come and see the artists perform listen to them or dance in the space and also explore the space during the events,” Umland said.
Exposing younger generations to art that some don’t learn about or see anywhere else was part of the goal for Otherworld.
“I think we just now starting to see a more immersive, large-scaled art like this popping up. We are happy to be apart of that, and hopefully it does inspire people to come up with fun cool stuff,” Umland said. “I think we do offer a benefit to people in that hopefully our experience is one that is encouraging and inspirational. I want people to hopefully leave here and come up with all kinds of their own creative art style.”