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Enter an Otherworld, interactive art space open now

Linda Lee Baird

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Otherworld is located at 5819 Chantry Drive in Reynoldsburg, and is now officially open Fridays – Sundays! To learn more about what Otherworld has in store, read our (614) Magazine coverage below! 

Remember the OASIS,  from Ready Player One, the immersive simulation game that sucked in players around the globe to escape from their dull existence? Columbus might have just gotten a step closer to that virtual reality. At least the escape part is down.

Check out Instagram highlights from people around Columbus here.

I need an escape. It’s a classic winter-in-central-Ohio gray day when I turn into the enormous parking lot of an abandoned strip mall off of Brice Road—a layer of fog has settled five feet above the pavement, and the faded lettering of a former Office Max marks the building in front of me. In the middle of the gray is a futuristic and intriguing sign: Otherworld. I park next to a car with the license plate “MORBID 1.” Despite the fact that I haven’t yet entered the building, I’m already transported.   

Jordan Renda, Otherworld’s Creative Director and Founder, takes me on a tour of the building—formerly a Sports Authority—that’s being transformed by a team of designers. Their goal is nothing less than developing a brand-new genre of “gamified” entertainment. Renda describes it as a combination of an escape room, a role-playing game, an art installation, a children’s science center, and a haunted house. “It’s an interactive art installation that’s tied together  with an overarching story,” he said. “We’re sort of blending all those things together to create something that’s totally new.” 

When visitors arrive, they’ll learn their role in the story that’s about to unfold—serving as beta testers for a company called Otherworld Industries.  “This company’s been developing this new sort of technology. It […] manifests this dream realm. So you’re unlocking this archetypal dream world that you can explore and go through,” Renda said. Visitors may also choose to follow a different path to  learn the backstory of the company. In total, there will be roughly three-hours of content to explore.

As we walk through the rooms, Renda shares more about who—or what—will inhabit them. Expect to meet a 19-eyed creature whose orbs can track you, a seamstress in a room of spiders, a monster with an oversized bed, and a botanist experimenting with wild plants (Renda describes him as “Willy Wonka meets Rick Sanchez from Rick and Morty.”)

Even without having met these characters, I’m taken in by the design. With light projections, fantastical creatures, infinity mirrors, interactive control panels, and a central surreal-looking tree, Otherworld functions at a core level as a giant immersive piece of art, designed to be enjoyable even if visitors don’t want to solve any puzzles. 

“A lot of this tech is just emerging where we can actually make a whole room change around you by, like, the touch of a small button,” Fabrication Director Leland Drexler-Russell said. “There’s an interactive, or multiple interactive elements in every single room.” These features include spiders whose legs visitors can control and gems that guests can explode. There are even opportunities to influence other visitors’ experiences. 

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While Otherworld aims to be something entirely new, it’s inspired by the creators’ experiences with different forms of immersive art. Renda and Drexler-Russell both credit visits to City Museum in St. Louis as a formative early experience with large-scale interactive exhibits. Renda also spoke of attending Haunted House trade shows. “As a teenager I thought, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if you could add a story to this, add some themed elements,’ ” he said. 

I wondered whether Otherworld could be compared to immersive theater experiences where guests wander through the set, often staged in multiple rooms, watching bits and pieces of story unfold along the way. Drexler-Russell confirmed my hunch, but added that in this case, the story is told with video and audio logs instead of actors. “It’s kind of like immersive theater, if it was combined with like a Burning Man art installation and a role-playing game,”Renda added. 

Renda felt Columbus was the right place to bring Otherworld to life, and not just because of the abandoned retail space that’s available. “There’s a lot of people looking for, you know, culture, cultural activities like arts and entertainment, so it seemed like a good spot to do it from that angle,” he said. Our proximity to other large cities also convinced him. “We’re looking to not only attract people from Columbus, but to make it more of a regional thing.”

With the uptick in interest in escape rooms and other forms of immersive entertainment, it seemed to Renda like the right time to take things to the next level. “There’s so much information coming at us all the time; we just need to be interacting with it somehow,” he said. 

How far Otherworld’s guests will take these interactions remains an open question, even to the designers. As the storyline and the art evolve, so do the possibilities for the experience. It’s “taking that idea of this immersive entertainment and really branching it and seeing where the limitations are,” Drexler-Russell said.  

So how many levels could this world go? Plan a visit to Otherworld and find out for yourself.


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9 festivals for you to fall in love with this weekend

Mitch Hooper

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Summer may be rounding out, but there are still so many ways to fest outside. From vintage good fairs to rock climbing at the Scioto Audubon, here are the festivals taking place this weekend in the city.

Sept. 12-15 | Scioto Fest | Scioto Audubon Metro Park

This four-day festival is for those with an affinity for the outdoors. Here, adrenaline junkies will find rock climbing and bouldering while land lovers can enjoy camping, music, and all the food offerings.

Sept. 12-14 | Creative Control Fest 8 | Lincoln Theatre

In its eighth year, the Creative Control Fest is back to raise up and celebrate creatives of color from around the midwest. Hang out and learn useful information at one of the many workshops, or get your mind right at one of the wellness activities designed for creatives from a variety of different industries.

Sept. 13-14 | 934 Fest 2019 | 934 Gallery

In a celebration of the art scene here in Columbus, 934 Gallery is opening its doors for two-days this weekend featuring art from Lucie Shearer and Andy Meyer. Additionally, the festival will play host to two music stages, a comedy stage, local artist vendors, food trucks, craft beer, and plenty of activities for your young Picasso.

Sept. 13-15 | Country Living Fair | Ohio Historical Village

Calling all flea market fans and garage sale experts, this is your chance to splurge! This three-day fair offers more than 200 vendors from across different states selling vintage and handcrafted goods as well as antiques. Stop by one of the how-to sessions, or simply fill up your Pinterest mood board with loads of ideas.

Sept. 13-14 | Columbus Caribbean Festival | The Scioto Mile

In its third year, the Columbus Caribbean Festival has returned to The Scioto Mile for two days of live music, delicious island-inspired food and drinks including Taste Of Kingston and The Gumbo Dude Food Truck, and a parade. The music lineup includes Pete Funk, BAND AMANIAUZURI, and The Flex Crew.

Sept. 13-15 | 2019 Grandview Oktoberfest | Hofbrauhaus Columbus (Grandview)

Another weekend in September, another chance to celebrate the German Oktoberfest! This time around it's at Hofbrauhaus where live entertainment will clash with German food and bier as well as activities for little ones. Friday will feature WCOL-FM from 6pm- 8pm, while Saturday will host a face painter and balloon artists from 2pm- 6pm. And if you couldn't make it to the face painter on Saturday, they will return on Sunday from 1pm- 4pm in addition to a magician.

Sept. 14 | Crafted Food, Beer & Music Festival | Columbus Commons

From farm-to-table-to-festival, the Crafted Food, Beer & Music Festival brings nine different Columbus restaurants together to showcase their offerings. For $15, you can enjoy live music from George Barrie Band and The Floorwalkers, stuff your face, and know that you're doing some civic good as a portion of proceeds will benefit Freedom a la Cart, an organization providing paid workforce training and supportive services to survivors of human trafficking.

Sept. 14 | Oktoberfest Party | Wolf's Ridge Brewing

Wolf's Ridge is getting in on the Oktoberfest action and on Saturday you can find brats, spaetzle, and of course, WRB's very own Oktoberfest bier. If you really want to feel the Oktoberfest vibes, purchase a $14 stein and hoist it high!

Sept. 14 | Old Hilliardfest | Main St. in Old Hilliard

This street fair takes place in Old Hilliard where visitors can explore car shows and sunflower shows as well as all the fixings of most festivals: live music, food, and activities for kids at the kid's fair. Support local, and have fun while doing so!

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Let’s play FREE ball! Clippers weekend win means more dime-a-dogs

Mike Thomas

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Over the weekend, our Columbus Clippers topped the Gwinnett Stripers to clinch the series, earning them a spot in the Governors' Cup Finals!

Games 1 and 2 of the Governors' Cup Finals best-of-5 series against the Durham Bulls will be played at Huntington Park on September 10 and September 11. Both games will start at 6:35pm, gates open at 5:30pm.

As if that weren't enough to entice you, all games in the first round will be dime-a-dog! 

Tickets for Games 1 and 2 are FREE! They will be available beginning Monday at 10am via Ticketmaster (no fees!), by calling 614-462-2757, or by stopping by either our Administrative Offices from 10am-4pm or the CF Box Office on the corner of Neil and Nationwide from 10am-2pm.

Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, with a limit of four per order. For more information including the complete playoff schedule, click here.

https://twitter.com/CLBClippers/status/1170728807940186113
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Amazon Treasure Truck returns to Columbus this weekend with exclusive deals

Mike Thomas

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Whether you missed out on the Prime Day deals, or simply want to keep the savings rolling, Amazon is offering a unique new way to score deals in Columbus. This weekend, the juggernaut of online retail is once again bringing its Treasure Truck to the 614.

The concept is simple: Customers can sign-up for text message alerts revealing the day’s treasure, which could range from trending tech and the latest gear to seasonally relevant products. Sign up for text message notifications by texting “truck” to 24193.

After customers place their order on Amazon, they then select a convenient pickup location and time slot to get their item. In addition to the iconic trucks, customers can pick up their treasure at newly-launched vans, as well as kiosks located in select Amazon Books, Amazon Go, Whole Foods Market stores, and more.

To learn more and to sign up for alerts, click here, or sign up for text message notifications by texting “truck” to 24193. Don't sleep on these deals—the Treasure Truck will be rolling on to the next locale before you know it!

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