We’ve all heard about this new string of experiential “museums” aimed at the Instagram generation. There’s the Ice Cream Museum, which sparked the trend, thanks to stars like Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé posting their visits on Instagram; 29Rooms, which aims to fuse together “art, activism, style, and technology”; and the Museum of Pizza, which was dedicated to everybody’s favorite hand-held cheese and dough concoction. Now experiential designer Valentino Vettori just opened an elaborate experience called Arcadia on 518 Broadway in New York with the aim to evoke a sense of delight through the interaction with technology and art, with the added bonus of learning about just how much plastic, pollution, and industry impacts the environment and the wildlife which inhabits it.
“A single drop of chemical sunscreen can contaminate a coral reef the size of six-and-a-half Olympic pools,” Vettori tells me as I begin my tour of Arcadia, which opens on September 1. “How could people not know this?” Vettori wanted to educate the public about environmental concerns that they are seldom educated about, so he conceived of Arcadia after a visit to a Summit conference where he heard Paul Hawken, the author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming . “What is the point of me putting away money for a scholarship [for his children], if in 20 years we have no planet?” asked Vettori. “I’m not joking.” So Vettori made a pledge to Hawken to do something to contribute to saving the environment by, according to a release, creating a “hub where artists, communities, activists, and institutions could come together to engage in being part of environmental solutions.”
Vettori devised of a sprawling exhibition set across 15 rooms that provide visitors with playful activities. The experiential designer tapped environmental artists like Samuelle Green, Tamara Kotianovsky, Etty Yaniv, Cindy Roe, Poramit Thantapalit, Jesse Harrod, Justin Bolognino/META, Katie Donahue, Katharina Hoerath, Charlotte Becket, Emmy Mikelson, and Basia Goszczynska to contribute to the installation, which also makes for great Instagram photos. Scan an iPad over a wall to see animated sea creatures swimming about. Want to know which seafood is safe to consume? Simply scan your phone over a QR code, and a list of establishments pop up. Want to feel what it’s like to be swimming beneath the ocean? Put on a pair of virtual reality glasses dangling from the ceiling, and soon you’ll find yourself admiring the sea-life down below.
“If in 25 years, we don’t stop, we will have only algae and jellyfish in our ocean,” explained Vettori. I also learned that 23 billion plastic bags are used in New York City annually, and felt a sense of relief as soon as Vettori told me that there will be a ban in place next year. Goszczynska created a cave with 44,000 plastic bags—the amount of bags used in New York every minute—to demonstrate the impact. The bags will never biodegrade into the environment. Goszczynska explained that she used bags that were ready to be recycled. Goszczynska wanted the cave to symbolize “moving out of the cave ages, moving out of like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, moving out of ignorance, leaving plastic bags behind.”
Vettori also made sure that everything within Arcadia is upcycled, environmentally friendly, and biodegradable. At the end of the exhibition visitors can make a pledge (and take selfies) promising to waste no food, shop responsibly, not use single-use plastics, and to vow to care. After, there’s a store that carries a wide range of environmentally friendly products, ranging from housewares to beauty. Best of all, proceeds from ticket sales plant a tree and go to Oceanic Global, Arcadia’s charity and educational partner.
“All I want is for people to come,” said Vettori. By doing so, visitors will not only get a memorable, technology- and art-filled experience and Instagram memories, they’ll also get an education on the environmental crisis on our planet and what we can do to save it by being part of the solution.
Tickets for Arcadia are available at arcadia.earth.