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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
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Expand your reality with the 29Rooms interactive art exhibit

Refinery29’s ‘Expand Your Reality Tour’ offers a world of empowerment and enlightenment

If you’ve ever seen an Instagram influencer in a neon-flooded room that looks like it’s straight out of a science fiction trailer, chances are they went to Refinery29’s “29Rooms” exhibit. With an emphasis on self-love and acceptance, 29Rooms is an interactive exhibit that allows any individual to immerse themselves into a world of exciting and empowering artwork.

Five years after its debut in New York City, 29Rooms is embarking on a cross-country tour dubbed the “Expand Your Reality Tour,” taking its whimsical designs and messages of equality to Atlanta, Toronto, Los Angeles and D.C. The exhibit will appear at the D.C. Armory from Oct. 18 to Oct. 29. Tickets are available online

According to Refinery29’s website, the exhibit began as a response to the divisive environment within the fashion community fostered by exclusive New York Fashion Week networking parties. 29Rooms prides itself on being an inclusive artistic experience for anyone, regardless of social status or leverage.  

There will be several rooms to explore at the exhibit. Some highlights include a dance room littered with tinsel and neon lights that blasts the soundtrack of D.C., a newsstand with messages of justice and equality for all that is sponsored by the ACLU, a dark-lit and serene palmistry room that allows you to relax and have your future foretold and a room full of fluffy primary-colored furniture that transports you back to a vibrant ‘90s teen bedroom. 

29Rooms caters much of its experience toward social media exposure, as much of the attraction to its exhibits is the photogenic quality of the rooms. Influencers from around the nation flock to this event in hopes of getting the perfect picture to post to social media for all of their followers to see.

This focus on social media can seem counterintuitive to the depth and meaning behind many of the exhibits in 29Rooms, but Olivia Fagon, the creative director at 29Rooms, offered a fresh insight into the relationship between social media and art.

“[The rooms] give people an opportunity to make a statement about something they believe in and would like to express,” Fagon said. “The visual serves as a moment for them to do that.” 

Though some rooms may seem to be simply made for the sake of an Instagram picture, Fagon mentioned that there are some rooms that are “explicitly interactive.” An excellent example of one of these interactive rooms, and a personal favorite room of Fagon’s, is the “29 Questions” room that allows people to write down their thoughts or feelings about difficult dialogues within society. 

“We’re not building them to be photographed in that way,” she said. “Those rooms can often be more powerful and allow someone to sit down and think through a topic.” 

29Rooms also strives to empower and share the voices of marginalized groups through art. Jamea Richmond-Edwards is an example of an artist who uses her platform for this same purpose of amplifying black voices and stories through her art.

Richmond-Edwards is featured in 29Rooms with an original digital billboard that depicts black imagery and fashion she advocates for in all of her artwork. She strives to display messages of equality and empowerment through her art. An artist since the age of three, her work focuses on the fashion and imagery she saw while growing up in Detroit. According to Richmond-Edwards, watching her mother get ready to go out into the Detroit social dance scene, known as Detroit Bop, impacted her later work. 

“I was seeing my mother getting ready for a night on the town,” Richmond-Edwards said. “She would have the beads to match her outfit to match her gaits which typically matched the Cadillac.” Her mother’s “gaits,” or alligator shoes, were a staple of ‘90s Detroit fashion.

Richmond-Edwards aims to maintain the eccentric and colorful style that she saw growing up throughout her artwork. In today’s society, she said, it’s all too common for black women to feel like “we have to mute and tone down ourselves.” Her artwork celebrates the vibrancy that black women are too often told to hold back. 

“The black body is political, period,” Richmond-Edwards said. “We wear things to make statements.”

Richmond-Edwards’ exhibit is particularly significant because it allows people to see the artwork of a person who has lived in D.C. for several years and who understands the intersection between race and fashion in the area. 

The ‘Expand Your Reality Tour’ will be at the D.C. Armory from Oct. 18 to Oct. 29. For more information, you can click here.

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