The trend of interactive, Instagrammable experiences shows no sign of slowing—in the past year alone metro Atlanta has hosted a Christmas wonderland, a candy extravaganza that would make Willy Wonka jealous, and a lot of neon slime. Later this month, popular website Refinery29 will bring its 29Rooms experience to Atlanta for the first time as part of a national tour.
The concept of 29Rooms is fairly simple—there are quite literally 29 installations for visitors to admire, interact with, and of course, photograph—created by various artists, as well as a number of brands such as Panera Bread and Transitions contact lenses. All of this year’s installations were created under the theme of “Expand Your Reality.” Some are more whimsical—a childhood bedroom completely covered in vivid faux fur, for example—while others are more thought-provoking, such as an ACLU-branded newsstand that promotes social justice.
29Rooms began in 2015 as a celebration of the lifestyle website’s 10th anniversary, but has rapidly expanded in the past four years, thanks in part to brand and celebrity support. The 2017 tour featured installations from Janelle Monae, Margot Robbie, and Demi Lovato, among other stars.
Two local artists will be featured during the event when it arrives at the Works development on the Westside on August 29. Atlanta-based illustrator Neka King, who goes by NNEKKAA, created a work titled “Expansion” for the exhibition’s “Art Park”—a group of five artworks, each created by an artist from the touring cities: Atlanta, D.C., Toronto, Dallas, and Chicago.
King, a Georgia State grad, says her goal was to embrace the event’s theme while staying true to her personal aesthetic. “My art usually depicts black figurative work, so I decided to pair that with an afro-futuristic feel in order to express this feeling of grand optimism and possibility, something I think Atlanta has a lot of,” she says of the piece.
She says she was asked to participate in 29Rooms after event organizers discovered her through social media. “Instagram is a powerful thing,” she says. “It’s funny, though, because I’m very familiar with Refinery29 and always admire the illustrators they’ve chosen to work with. So I can definitely mark this one off of my dream clients list.”
“It feels surreal when I think about it, but also super exciting,” King continues. “My work will be able to travel to cities I haven’t stepped foot in yet. However, I’m still very excited for my community to see it.”
While King’s piece will appear in each city, Sarah Emerson‘s piece for 29Rooms is exclusive to Atlanta. The Agnes Scott professor and abstract artist will participate in the “Traveling Billboard” installation, in which an artist in each host city creates a “billboard mural” (Emerson’s will be 10 x 20 feet) to be displayed at their individual city’s event.
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Emerson’s mural will explore the “psychological landscape” of Atlanta. “In my work, I transform patterns visible in the natural world to create an animated, paint-by-numbers-style image,” she says. “This city, its Civil War history, its Civil Rights struggle, its LGBTQ community, its green spaces, its disappearing green spaces, and the surrounding state parks all mold my perspective on what it means to paint a landscape.”
When Refinery 29 contacted her about creating Atlanta’s Traveling Billboard, she immediately thought of how billboards are primarily used to advertise and about what type of message she wanted to send through that platform.
“I really wanted to focus on imagery that promotes the importance of supporting equality and kindness for all,” she says. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the current political tensions and the cruelty that seems to permeate public debate and policy. There is deep division on almost every issue, and there is a real fight for what it means to be American. I want to stay mindful of [those issues], but I also want to resist cynicism and hopelessness. Our emotional landscape and our environment are always better when we take care of others and focus on compassion and empathy.”
Emerson also says that 29 Rooms will feature a separate, collective mural she designed that guests can collaborate on and paint together. She also teases that her mural will glow in the dark.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the rooms that will be featured on the Atlanta tour:
Teenage Bedroom: Artist Uzumaki Cepeda designed this fur-covered bedroom, a cozy, nostalgia-filled relaxation space. There’s even a working Nintendo 64 console.
A Long Line of Queendom: A collaboration with Refinery29’s Unbothered, which publishes stories aimed primarily at black millennial women, this room will celebrate the culture, beauty, experiences, and achievements of black women.
The Art Park: Which will feature King’s piece, as well as works from Yvette Mayorga, Dan Lam, hanski, and Trap Bob.
Dance Break: Exactly what it sounds like—this room is a giant dance party complete with gleaming neon signs, disco balls, and a DJ.
Sweet Today, Gone Tomorrow: Sponsored by Panera, you can get a temporary tattoo in this strawberry-centric parlor.
A Conversation with Your Inner Child: Created by artist Carlota Guerrero, this room encourages you to write a note to your inner child and stick it up on the wall.
Dream Doorways: This surreal room from artist Kali Uchis will transport you to another world.
The Full Picture: Inspired by Refinery29’s film series Shatterbox, this replica film studio encourages women to take starring roles.
Make Your Mark: This is where you can paint the “collaborative sculptural color by number” designed by Emerson. The space also features “a speed round circuit training of mini art class experiences,” according to a press release.
The Values Stand: The ACLU-branded newsstand encourages viewers to get socially active, vote, contact local representatives, and stand up for human rights.
You Are Magic: This Hoodwitch collaboration will take you inside an “enchanted crystal cave” where you can “awaken the deepest part of [yourself] and tap into [your] own inner magic,” according to a press release.
If you go: 29Rooms will run from August 29 through September 8 at the Works, 1235 Chattahoochee Avenue Northwest. Tickets start at $34 and grant you a two-and-a-half hour session to explore at your own pace. Purchase tickets here.