29Rooms, an interactive art pop-up installation by Refinery29, has been causing a buzz since its 2015 debut in New York City. The exhibit expanded to Los Angeles in 2017 and has since attracted hundreds of thousands of worldwide visitors. Each year, Refinery29 collaborates with and allows various creatives, visionaries, brands, and nonprofit organizations to translate their ideas, inspirations, and thoughts into 29 interactive rooms of fun. This year, 29Rooms Instagram-friendly exhibit, “Expand Your Reality,” is making its way to Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Toronto, and Washington, DC.
I had the chance to check out 29Rooms in Chicago a few weeks ago. 29Rooms is really an Instagrammers dream come true since it makes for pretty pictures. However, it’s also like a mini-museum that incites self-reflection since some of the rooms force you to think about life and dig deeper into who you are. The entire exhibit is set up for visitors to jump in, take photos, make boomerangs, and do it for the ‘gram, but the goal of 29Rooms “Expand Your Reality” theme is to “ignite wonder, spark conversation and dare people to dream bigger,” outside of their everyday ways. It did just that. This year’s rooms full of art and impact included partnerships with Shea Moisture, Panera Bread, Prudential, Transitions Optical, and Bitten Dressing. There were also collaborations with ACLU, Kali Uchis, Social Works, Dan Lam, Uzumaki Cepeda, and more.
Each room, sponsored or curated by a different brand or artist, offered a unique experience and fun. My Top 5 Favorite Rooms at 29Rooms were:
Dream Doorways – Created by artist Kali Uchis, this surreal room features multiple doors that transports you to different dream-like scenarios once opened including a sandy beach (yes, the sand was real – I learned the hard way).
A Long Line of Queendom – This room was created in collaboration with Refinery29’s Unbothered, which publishes content by and for black millennial women. The room which screams “Black Girl Magic,” celebrates the beauty, strength, achievement, and power of black women. This unapologetically black exhibit is adorned in affirmations and imagery of black women in golden robes, crowns, and a thrown. The room also honors notable black women including Oprah, Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Toni Morrison, Maxine Waters, Queen Latifah, and more.
Make Your Mark (painting) – In collaboration with SocialWorks and O.J. Hays, the Make Your Mark room encourages you to express yourself and create art through collaborative painting on boxes. There’s also an opportunity to create with clay and make portraits.
A Conversation with Your Inner Child – This Post-it note-filled art exhibit anchored by humanistic sculpture was created by artist Carlota Guerrero. Guests are encouraged to have a moment of self-reflection by writing a note to their inner child on a Post-it note while sitting at a vanity mirror. These notes are then posted on the walls throughout the exhibit.
The Values Stand - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) created a newsstand room that brought attention to current issues and promotes social justice. This room encourages viewers to become socially active, register to vote, reach out to local representatives, and stand up for human rights.
Other rooms included: “Blind Date with Destiny," where guests have a palm reading with a stranger. Also, the “29 Questions” room forces strangers sit across from each other and ask fun and deep questions to spark a conversation. The “Crack Your Code” room is presented by Prudential Financial to teach guests about financial wellness. The “Dance Break” room is like the club, complete with a DJ and hype men teaching you the latest dance moves. Plus, there’s almost 20 more rooms to discover!
Let’s admit, I went to 29Rooms for the photo opportunities, but I left empowered. I appreciate how 29Rooms partnered with different artists and minority groups to create such an experience. The exhibit also provided useful information and forced me to have moments of self-reflection and conversations that I probably wouldn’t have had on that day. I love art, so I enjoyed seeing how the collaborations with the different artists and brands showcased their uniqueness and brought thought-provoking messages to fruition through art in each room.
I’ll be honest - I had very high expectations since I’ve been to quite a few pop-up experiences, and 29Rooms was the least fun. I was initially thrown off because the space was smaller than I thought. The 29 “rooms” were really in one big exhibition room compared to other interactive pop-ups such as Candytopia and Happy Place that had separate rooms for each exhibit. The 29 rooms more so reminded me of vendor booths at a convention. Also, the souvenir shop and snack bar were considered their own rooms and some rooms were counted as two rooms, so in reality you don’t have 29 separate exhibits.
Aside from that, I had a good experience at 29Rooms. Everyone won! Guests get to play, think, dance, paint, and take cool photos while the partners get their brand exposed to of thousands of people. Out of all 29 rooms, you should be able to connect with at least one (even if it’s just the snack bar haha). Definitely check out 29Rooms if it comes to your city!
29Rooms Locations and Dates:
· Chicago, Skylight Board of Trade: July 18 – July 28
· Dallas, Gilley’s Southside Ballroom: August 9 – August 18
· Atlanta, The Works: August 29 – September 8
· Toronto, Queen Elizabeth Building Exhibition Place: September 26 – October 6
· Washington D.C., D.C. Armory: October 18 – October 27 Tickets for each of the five cities start at $30 and can be purchased at www.29rooms.com.
Check out some photos from my 29Rooms experience