Van Gogh’s Immersive Experience

CW: suicide and self-harm

Maggie Collins

Editor, Arts and Entertainment

Van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in history due to the wide variety of his paintings and the fatal mental health issues he faced throughout his life. I have always admired his work, but I never took the time to truly learn about it. Therefore, during Spring Break, I took a trip to Raleigh to visit the Van Gogh Immersive Experience exhibition at the Pleasant Valley Promenade and was in no way disappointed by the engaging art that it presented. While none of the paintings were Van Gogh’s originals, the beauty of each piece still wasn’t dulled down from the printed canvases.

What captured my attention the most were the digital projections on multiple paintings that instantly brought them to life. Famously known for his various flower paintings, one of these pieces is a projection that beams onto a ceramic pot-like structure, showcasing each unique painting as if it was placed in the pot. Additionally, the museum has a long room dedicated to projections of his art on all four walls and the floor. Immersive is the only proper word to describe the events that take place around you. It completely transforms the place that you are in as his various works dance around you. After just a few short minutes, you are enraptured by the changing elements and easily forget that you’re in a room with other people.

One of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings is his “Starry Night,” but the story behind it is not as commonly known. He painted “Starry Night” as the view he saw from his east-facing window in an asylum that he checked himself into because of the many mental health battles he faced. The battles took him as far as to cut off his own ear with a razor after an argument with his friend. While he struggled inwardly, his paintings show nothing but beauty and brilliance to admirers. In fact, Van Gogh was believed to have been color blind, explaining the unique color schemes in his paintings, proving that he saw the world in a completely different way than others.

Unfortunately, Van Gogh’s work did not become famous until after his suicide when his sister-in-law took it upon herself to get his paintings and name out into the world. Without her determination to make his work known, we might never have been able to see the beauty for ourselves. 

It is hard to perfectly describe moments like these with words, so I won’t go into detail trying to explain to you exactly what I felt and experienced. Rather, I encourage you to go and encounter it for yourself. It is much different than an average museum and it will capture your attention the moment you see the first piece of artwork.

Other than viewing his work, there are many other additional opportunities in this exhibit. You can sign up for a yoga class in the calming and entrapping immersive room with 360-degree digital projections. As well, there is an opportunity for a “Paint like Van Gogh workshop” where an experienced instructor will assist you in recreating some of Van Gogh’s famous work. At the end of your walkthrough, you also have an opportunity to experience his work in a VR environment, furthering the feeling of physically stepping into his paintings.

Whether you love Van Gogh’s paintings or are new to his work, I highly encourage you to visit this museum. With relatively affordable tickets and the unique experience that it displays, it is worth every penny. More than just viewing his artwork, you learn his history and his personal struggles, helping to put meaning behind the paintings and truly bring them to life.

You can get more information about the exhibit and purchase tickets on the website, Van Gogh Raleigh, NC Exhibit: The Immersive Experience (

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured


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