Memphians recognize a good time when we see it, even if it sneaks up on us. But what about when that good time isn’t a line dance or a basketball game? What about when it’s not a plate of ribs or live music? What about when it’s something new and wild and utterly unique—will we get behind it? I think so, ‘cause we’re not about that cookie-cutter life, right? Right!
And on that note, let me introduce you to my new friend, Baron Von Oppenbean. The Baron never met a cookie-cutter. While exploring the multiverse, Von Oppenbean got lost, and now—thanks to artist Chris Reyes—Memphis is invited to explore the Baron’s path, being careful, of course, to avoid the Anomaly.
The world Reyes has created as Baron Von Oppenbean’s Exploratorium of Magic, Science, and the Multiverse exists in the slick new Off the Walls art space on Walnut, just off Vance Avenue. But you’ll be blissfully unaware of that as your eyes adjust to the dark interior that showcases the experience of lights, art, music, mazes, and (honestly) magic that make up the Experience.
The Experience is a proof of concept—this blossoming of Reyes’ imagination is a model meant to give us an idea of what could grow, given space and resources. It may remind some of the City Museum in St. Louis, and that’s a good thing. The two definitely share their ability to entrance and delight all ages, and like City Museum, the Experience also has the potential to draw tourists to a unique space that will leave them with fantastic memories and stories to tell.
Reyes built the Exploratorium with no budget and no materials—90% of what you’ll see is reclaimed and recycled, some of it from other artists. He also involved volunteers; children at Dunbar Elementary helped him create hundreds of melted-plastic flowers that add to the landscape of the Multiverse. It is a passion project, for sure, but one that isn’t just about the artist. This art is for the people, the goal is to garner interest and investment in the vision that Reyes is casting for a permanent adventure play facility.
So now it’s up to us, Memphis! Let’s embrace the Exploratorium! Reserve a time to go, if you can (it’s all COVID-aware, so visitors have time slots). If you’ve already been, shout about it. If you are an arts lover, a tourism lover, a “save our spaces” advocate (’cause wouldn’t this be great in the Coliseum?), or just someone who enjoys a little magic in your life, do your part to celebrate the Baron’s journey, and Reyes’ artistry. Memphis can always use some magic.