This past weekend marked the debut of Seismique, a 40,000-square-foot art-fueled experiential museum located in Houston’s west side. The space features 40-plus exhibits with dazzling displays of lights generated by 9 million LEDs, color, sound and natural elements. The multi-dimensional, immersive concept is located at 2306 South Highway 6.
The arts and entertainment space features works by over two dozen established and emerging artists – many of whom are Texas-based – along with advanced technological elements like projection mapping from 111 projectors, holograms, augmented reality, light mapping, motion tracking, gamification and more. Though visitors can expect to see and experience multiple art forms in a playful setting, each of Seismique’s installations shares the common denominator of being a dynamic expression of visual art brought to life by a bevy of serious artists.
Seismique's co-founder Josh Corley offered the Houston Press a walk-through of the museum just before its December 26 grand opening, which was equal parts Avatar, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and an acid trip – all in the best possible way – and also showed why this space will draw crowds from near and far.
Guests' first entry point to the museum is a black-and-white lobby layered with whimsical shapes and figures, resembling a Dr. Seuss coloring book before the colors are filled in. Easy, simple and inviting, it's just the beginning before stepping into the Crayola-tinted world of Seismique – not unlike Dorothy Gale's sepia Kansas shortly before she is thrust into the technicolor land of Oz.
After leaving the lobby through the fittingly-named Color Portal, viewers will arrive in Eden, which is a rush of vibrancy. In contradiction to its overload of sensations, the room provides the perfect respite amid the hustle and bustle of Seismique’s other spaces. Featuring oversized carved trees, custom lighting and ultra-violet, blacklight reactive paint, the visually stimulating garden astounds with three large holograms throughout the room that come complete with alien visitors.
Corley, a chemical engineer by trade, is one half of the brains behind the operation. Joining him in opening this creative space is Steve Kopelman, a seasoned veteran of the immersive experience and escape game industries.
Regarding his shift between two seemingly opposite career choices, Corley said, "As an engineer, I didn’t get to see the people who interact with the things I was doing, but working with Seismique and escape games, it’s become an incredible experience where I got to become closer to the people who enjoy the things I work on. I didn’t enjoy engineering as much as I love this, so I wanted to grab onto this, and for me it’s been more fulfilling."
The fruits of his labor surely paid off, as just the first couple of rooms proved to push the sensory threshold.
Among the many notable artists bringing Seismique to life is acclaimed Japanese 79-year-old crochet artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, who has been exhibiting artwork around the world since the 1960s. Horiuchi MacAdam’s award-winning project ‘public art for kids,’ which began as an installation for a park in Tokyo, has evolved into a signature concept dubbed AirPocket. The multi-colored playscape resembles a giant hammock made of crocheted circles, open pockets, and dangling pendulums for climbing and playing. Her installation Venus is one of only three in the country.
"When I say interactive art museum, one of the things that defines 'interactivity' for us is the many modes of interactivity. Venus is a physical interactivity moment. It was hand crocheted and will support more than 2,000 pounds," Corley said. "You can climb into it and go up to the top. Once you’re up top, it's like a colorful trampoline, and we have safety netting around the entire installation so that there are no mishaps."
Continuing the walk through the museum, more imagination comes to life with gadgets and gizmos aplenty.
"We envision this being for all ages…children, teenagers, millennials, and all generations who want to experience it in every way and form. Almost everything is interactive," Corley said.
In Face Making, watchers can do just that...make faces into cameras which will then correspond with music and lights, creating a show unto itself. The more people who fill the space, the zanier the fun becomes. Unidentified Flying Beat Machine features control stations where each twist of the knob of pull of a lever creates and audio and visual experience. Student Made allows younger guests to create a character that will be projected onto a UFO and visitors can use tablets to make the character move, jump and traverse the virtual landscape.
For teachers looking to bring science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics to life, Seismique offers a helpful solution in making these topics not just understandable but also interesting.
"We hope to bridge that gap. We can make subjects more entertaining, informational and fun," Corley added.
One show-stopping moment will take place in Acid Rain, an optical illusion within which visitors walk through water raining from the ground up without getting wet as eerily illuminated green water walls fall from an exterior circular structure. A path forms as guests explore the space while magically not getting wet from rainwater that shockingly appears to rise from the ground. Once inside the glowing center, the rain lets up and eventually stops in midair. In another instant, the rain begins falling downward in an Earthly fashion as if nothing ever happened.
No visit to Seismique would be complete without spending time in The Hub, a 70-foot spaceship that boasts more than 1 million LEDs. The Hub is additionally enhanced by thrusters that drop calming bubbles, which are filled with fog and enveloped by what can only be described as insane wall art. As Seismique’s largest installation, The Hub’s vibrant imagery further accentuates the concept’s euphoric atmosphere and will ultimately house future concerts and special events.
Speaking about the versatility of the room, Corley said, "We can do programming, events, concerts, set up a DJ booth, or install a stage. This is our largest exhibit area. It’s right at the center."
The entire space was tediously thought out from top to bottom, including safety measures for COVID-19. To go one step further, the team developed an app that will guide visitors through the spaces and allow them the freedom from touching surfaces if they so choose and instead let the app to do all the work.
"We considered everything to make sure people felt comfortable and safe. That’s part of why we developed the app. From when you check into Seismique to when you leave, you don’t have to touch anything. In addition to that, we’re following the lead of other museums and doing timed ticketing. We’re limiting out capacity. Everyone 3-years-old or older is required to wear a mask, and we’re following sanitation guidelines from the CDC," Corley said.
In addition to the wonderful world inside its walls, Seismique will be open 6 days a week, will offer food and beverages (both kid and adulty friendly), and has a gift shop.
Visit Seismique Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 2306 South Highway 6. The museum is closed Tuesdays. For more information, please visit seismique.com or call 346-202-6006. $28 - $35, with VIP packages ranging from $38 - $45.
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