Like a haunted house — but artful instead of scary: Immersive ‘dreamscapes’ is open in Salt Lake City

In the cloud room, a cave of pillowy shapes is lit with the colors of the rainbow. The ball pit is a lake of intense blue. The word room invites you to literally play on "WORDS,” spelled out in giant climbable letters.

The vivid areas are part of the new “dreamscapes” art exhibit opening Friday at The Gateway, with 17 imaginative realms to explore.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rio Wimmer in the cloud room at dreamscapes in Salt Lake City on Tuesday March 12, 2019. Dreamscapes is a project of the Utah Arts Alliance. It runs for one month from March 15 through April 15.

Interactive art installations are popping up around the country, from the "Museum of Ice Cream“ that has appeared in multiple cities, to "Meow Wolf” in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the “Hall of Breakfast,” also in The Gateway mall in Salt Lake City.

“One way to describe it is an experience like a haunted house, where you’re totally immersed in an environment,” but there’s art instead of scary features, said Derek Dyer, founder and executive director of the exhibit’s organizer, the nonprofit Utah Arts Alliance.

Every “dreamscapes” room has a theme and is the work of a lead artist or the work of several artists together. More than 50 artists, joined by volunteers, have helped create and support the exhibit, located at 110 South Rio Grande Street, next to the Urban Arts Gallery.

The overall motif is dreams, from those you have in your sleep to those you aspire to. The exhibit starts in an average-looking living room, with secret areas to discover.

The entrance to the otherworldly areas is hidden inside an ordinary object chosen by artist Justina Bonaventura, who created the first dreamlike room. It’s a dark space with common items that hold surprising contents.

“I just take everyday objects and give them a little magic in there,” Bonaventura said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Justina Bonaventura in a room she designed at dreamscapes in Salt Lake City on Tuesday March 12, 2019. Dreamscapes is a project of the Utah Arts Alliance. It runs for one month from March 15 through April 15.

Artist Birdie Hess, who created the word room and worked on other areas, said she hopes to “inspire a spark of creativity and a sense of endless possibilities for every patron who walks through.”

Guests are “basically going on a journey,” Dyer said. “You’ll be flying through the clouds, you’ll be visiting an enchanted forest, you’ll be in caves, you’ll be in an octopus's garden under water. There’s a bunch of other crazy elements I don’t even know how to describe.”

There’s physical three-dimensional art, digital projections and sound art. Some artworks are just to look at, while others can be jumped into or touched. There are plenty of Instagramable photo backdrops.

At least 90 percent of the materials used in “dreamscapes” are repurposed or salvaged. The arts alliance received donations and supplies from businesses and organizations such as the Salt Lake County Landfill and the Salt Palace Convention Center.

The exhibit began as a popular small section of Illuminate, a two-day light and art technology event the Utah Arts Alliance also presents. Dreamscapes was initially scheduled to be open until April 15, but extended its run several times, and was still open for the 2019 Illuminate Salt Lake festival in November. It has evolved, with some components that viewers helped create.)

The alliance hopes to eventually have a permanent facility for immersive art. Proceeds from “dreamscapes” will help support the next phase, Dyer said.

“Salt Lake is a perfect place to do something like this as a permanent installation," said Hess, who is also the shared resource manager for the arts alliance, "not only because we have so many incredible artists, but also because we have an incredible larger community who appreciates the arts.”

Admission is metered by time slots and tickets are $15, with children age two and under free. From March 15 to April 15, the exhibit’s hours will be Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m., and on weekends from noon until 9 p.m. Time slots begin every 30 minutes.

For tickets and more information, visit https://www.showclix.com/event/dreamscapesslc-org.

This coverage of downtown Salt Lake City arts groups is supported by a grant from The Blocks, a cultural initiative of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. The Salt Lake Tribune makes all editorial decisions.