Photo Credit: Daria Tcherkachina
Immersive Van Gogh seamlessly blends art and technology.
Every so often, you meet someone that makes a lasting impression. They’re the type of person who quietly walks into a room but instantly commands your attention. That was our first impression of Daria Tcherkachina, Retail Director for the wildly popular Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, now on display (or coming soon) in several major cities across the US and Canada.
We weren’t at all surprised when we heard that Daria was making a leap from fashion retail to the art world. A keen eye and great style aside, her ability to quietly command attention in industries where customer experience is prioritized above all else has more than prepared her for a role with a team whose forward-looking vision has so seamlessly blended art and technology.
Lighthouse Immersive has been wowing crowds with their beautifully executed digital art exhibits featuring the work of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. The 360-degree experience puts its visitors at the center of large-scale moving images set to music and projected across every square inch of large, open spaces. The digital animations of some of Van Gogh’s most famous pieces, including Starry Night, Sunflowers and The Bedroom, cover walls, ceilings and floors, and create a genuinely immersive visual experience that will hold your attention for at least an hour.
We had the pleasure of talking to Daria about her experience over the last year and her thoughts on how the art world is embracing digital to deliver a unique customer experience to a whole new audience.
Daria and her team (all of whom she references often and with absolute adoration) are the cherry on top of this artfully designed showcase, delivering a unique, and carefully curated, retail experience that can easily rival some of the best museum shops in the world. When you walk out of Immersive Van Gogh, you step into another exceptional experience in the exhibit’s museum shop, which houses everything existing, and new, Van Gogh fans could possibly want, delivered by a team that’s been trained to make a final impression that lives up to an epic first impression.
Tell us about the role you play at Van Gogh! What is it that you do, Daria?
I’m the Retail Director for Lighthouse Immersive, overseeing all aspects of retail operations for all the shows we produce. I oversee product development, manage the performance of each store throughout North America, as well as my core corporate team.
You’ve spent a good part of your career working in Fashion Retail. How did that prepare you for your new role with Lighthouse?
I have always enjoyed fashion and have been in retail for about 17 years now. I love the nature of the business and there is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing. Aside from managing departments and stores that allowed me to gain different experiences in so many aspects of retail, I have been very fortunate to have incredibly generous mentors who have been around to guide me when I needed them.
In my role now, I have the opportunity to take all my past experiences, including mistakes and wins, and apply them to this multifaceted new job. From customer service skills to recognizing how to effectively connect with staff, curating a vast selection of product and allocations, negotiating with different vendors… Everything I do now, I had done in the past in some capacity, but now I get to do everything all the time! How cool is that?!
Immersive Van Gogh has quickly become one of the most popular travelling exhibits in North America. Why do you think that is?
The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit is based on connection. It is the foundation of the entire show. Regardless of gender or creed, and I think that’s exactly what people crave. That’s why we make friends, that’s why social media is taking over our lives – in this crazy fast paced life, we all just want to connect.
Another reason that makes the exhibit stand out is how seamlessly art and technology are being merged. The entire experience simply takes your breath away!
How did it all begin? Why take Van Gogh digital instead of Picasso, Warhol or the Group of Seven?
Our producers saw the exhibit in Paris and just had to bring it to an audience in North America. Van Gogh’s art and style, the brush strokes… they are absolutely perfect for this medium. His paintings are just meant to come to life in the way that they do in this show.
Taking a classic art style like Van Gogh’s and bringing it to life in a virtual world with technology has probably generated renewed interest among a whole new audience. What are people saying about it? Who’s attending the exhibit?
The response to the exhibit has been absolutely wild. I think this is a new way to enjoy art. Whether you’re an art lover or hate museums, this show speaks to you. I am always impressed with the fact that even teenagers love it. I think they’re a tough crowd to please, so that says a lot.
One of my favourite parts of the job is getting to meet our guests while I am on the sales floor, in our shops in different cities. I feel very privileged to share in everyone’s personal experience of this exhibit. Guests are excited, they cry, there are a lot of emotions which make for a very different retail experience for everyone who works in our stores.
What is your favourite piece by Van Gogh and what did you think of the digital interpretation?
I have two favourites – The Smoking Skeleton and Almond Blossom.
Very different paintings. One is very dark, yet subtle, and it makes quite an impact. The second is just stunning – it’s bright and airy but so complex. I love that The Smoking Skeleton is relatively unknown and not as mainstream as his other works, so it makes for a super cool print on product. Almond Blossom is definitely my favourite part of the show. I don’t think I can ever put it in words. The painting just comes to life and takes over.
Describe a typical day at work… from the minute you walk into the office to when you leave to go home.
No day is ever the same, which I adore.
It usually starts with checking numerous emails and sales numbers. Followed by reading the show reports from each venue from the previous day. Which always leads to addressing something that could be improved on in our day-to-day operations to support the growth and success of every store.
There are always quite a few Zoom meetings – check ins with every operating store while making sure that everything is ready for the next opening – from fixtures to product. There are interviews and training sessions. New product development for Immersive Van Gogh, as well as other upcoming shows. There are also calls to plan travel for my team to make sure we touch down in every city in time for the pre-opening set up.
I have been travelling quite a bit to set up all our stores, so all of this is usually done on the road or when I’m on location setting up one of our stores. The days are very long and work literally never stops but it is so rewarding to look back and take in just how many things I am able to juggle each day.
We love hitting up a great museum shop on our way out of an exhibit. What are some of your favourite things in your store?
This is a trick question, isn’t it? 🙂
I love all our product! My rule is that I have to love and want to buy 90% of what we offer. Fine China and beautiful silk scarves are definitely a fave of mine. Bucket hats! Knitted Van Gogh dolls are super cute, too.
Every city we go to, we try to support local artists so there are quite a few collaborations that I love. Cuchara Jewelry from Toronto designed a few stunning pieces for us. Kristopher Kites who is originally from Chicago is designing super cool necklaces just for our LA location. Keith Kelly from NYC created two prints inspired by Van Gogh that he translated into cool jackets, pants and (perhaps) more apparel and accessories to come. Gianni’s Corner and Daze in Blue, both local Charlotte brands have designed incredible streetwear collections for us, too, that I just cannot get enough of.
These are just the stand outs at the moment, but there is really nothing from our product that I don’t love or own at this point.
Did we just see a giant Vincent Van Gogh head flying overhead recently? Or was that something we dreamt?
You sure did see a giant Van Gogh hot air balloon flying in Toronto – we decided to celebrate our Toronto reopening with a splash!
We loved the idea of “Gogh with the Flow”. Have you participated in any of the immersive Yoga Classes yet?
I haven’t tried our yoga classes yet! I usually prefer more gruelling workouts, but I cannot wait to try it! I’m sure I’d love to take a small break from all the travel and stay in one city long enough to attend all our Gogh with the Flow classes.
This is a travelling exhibit. What’s the schedule? Where is Vincent heading and when?
As of right now, we have 6 venues open! By the time people read this, that number will change! It all started in Toronto in 2020, then we opened IVG in Chicago in February, and San Francisco in March. NYC and Charlotte opened a week apart from each other in June. And we just got LA opened two days ago. Dallas will be opening tomorrow!
Overall, by the end of the year, there will be 18 Immersive Van Gogh exhibits throughout North America. The scope of this exhibit is about defying limitations. We have done more in 6 months during a pandemic than some do in years!
Any advice to people about to come through the exhibit? What do you want people to know?
The show runs on a loop, and I always remind our guests to stay for as long as they like to fully take in the experience. I think the first loop is quite emotional and stimulating.
By the time you take all your pictures and videos, you need to stay for at least one more loop to relax into the show and take it all in.
This past year and a half has been a tough one for a lot of people. How do you think art and the art community can help people cope?
As difficult as the last year has been, I hope there were lessons learned that in the end may make us all a little bit more human. Art is about inspiration. Art is about conversations. There is no right or wrong. It’s all about perspective which inspires! That is what everyone needs right now. And Digital Art takes it to another level, and it becomes entertainment, which is so uplifting during this time.
First thing that comes to your mind when we say “Art that Moves”?
Teamwork! Perhaps not a typical answer, but I think teamwork is art in itself. To witness high performance teams at work always takes my breath away.
Have you learned anything new about Van Gogh since you joined the team here?
Beyond the daily professional and personal lessons, I was shocked to learn that Van Gogh sold only one painting while he was alive! I love his story of passion and perseverance. Despite lack of commercial success, he was incredibly prolific.
I know that there are so many artists out there that haven’t received the recognition they deserved, but Van Gogh is so highly regarded now that it did come as a surprise to me that that wasn’t always the case. There are museums and exhibits dedicated to him; people travel across many states to see shows about him and my world revolves around him now. I cannot imagine a different world where Van Gogh wasn’t so successful.
Describe Immersive Van Gogh in less than 5 words.
Immersive Van Gogh in less that 5 words? Simply a must see!
Visit https://www.vangoghexhibit.ca for details, locations and to reserve your tickets today!
Horn and Mane specializes in leveraging digital channels and tools to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Reach out to learn more.