A Very Colorful Day in SoHo

Monday, May 6, 2019

When I was in New York City at the beginning of April, I desperately wanted to visit the Color Factory, but no one was available to join me - & it seemed like the kind of place that was pretty sad to visit alone.

Instead, I made plans to go the next time I was in town, when my coworkers Paige & Jenny & I had a Friday off. We met for brunch at an Israeli cafe called 12 Chairs before heading over to the Color Factory in a veritable monsoon. It was a good day to be indoors!

The Color Factory is an interactive exhibit all about... you know, colors. It originally debuted as a temporary pop-up in San Francisco, & now it's a semi-permanent installation at a 20,000 sqaure-foot  space in SoHo through the end of summer 2019.

Upon visiting (tickets required), you go through the 16 exhibits room by room, as you would at a museum, & along the way, you experience all things hands-on, educational, fun, & even edible. Various displays are sponsored by big-name companies (think Maybelline & Gymboree), & everything is highly Instagrammable - but it also feels like a true experience, like art, like science. 

In other words, it was very cool - & very fun. And we took a lot of photos. 

(Here is a post about it from blogger Erin Loves Fun, whose photos are muuuuch better than my own, should you want to marvel over all of this with higher-quality imagery. If you're willing to stick with me, though, bless you, & read on.)

We got My/Mo mochi when we first checked into the exhibit; I went with mango, but I ate it before I even photographed it - &, in a very on-brand move, got powdered sugar all over my all-black outfit in doing so.

In the first room, we chose a Mille Feuille macaroon from a conveyor belt. I went with a simple vanilla cookie because I didn't know what flavor blue would be - & because vanilla looked best on the color-wheel of a coaster it was served on. Guilty as charged. Also? That macaron was really damn good. 

With that, we were off to a tasty - &, of course, colorful - start.

You go through The Color Factory at your own pace, taking as many photos as you'd like along the way. Many of the exhibits are connected in some fashion, thematically, starting with the room right after the macarons: In a hallway with huge, color-blocked walls, we were instructed to choose a solid-colored button in a hue that "spoke to" us. 

I picked that rich green color you see on the far right in the first pic below; Paige & Jenny both picked shades of light blue. We were told to wear our buttons through the exhibit, where they would eventually come into play.

In this musical installation room from artist Lakwena & musician Abimaro, we used xylophones & drums & other colorful instruments to create joyful noises with strangers. It was hard to tell whose sound was whose, which was, I guess, the point. You can see my looking very grumpy below (I was just concentrating!) as I make sweet, sweet music... & then, as we took photos with some of the words on the wall once the other visitors cleared out. 

Taylor Swift had debuted her new song, "Me," just the night before, so Paige picked the corresponding word; Jenny, who is quintessentially cool, went with "back" & turned her denim-clad back to the camera. I went the Michelle Obama route with "high" - you know, as in, "When they go low, we go..."

After that, we were asked to split into pairs for the next room, which initially posed some issues.

My friends & I were in a trio, as were the people ahead of us - a  young mom & her two kids, from whom she didn't want to be separated. I volunteered to be her partner so her kids could partner with each other, & she could be near them; Paige & Jenny were also split up on either side of a wall barrier, so we promised my partner we'd keep an eye on whichever kid she was separated from (which turned out to be her son, who was about 9 or 10).

It was such a Midwestern suggestion of me, but it also worked out well. When we got into the next room(s), we were separated from our partner by a glass wall, much like a prison visitation situation. We were each asked to put on a pair of headphones, which guided us, in tandem, through the process of identifying all of the colors associated with our partner &, eventually, drawing that person without ever removing our pencil from the paper.

In the first image below, you can see the colors I chose for my partner; in the third image, on the grey slip of paper, you can see the colors she chose for me, including pale skin, pinkish lips, red earrings, & my green button. Her line drawing is wonderfully Picasso-esque.

Afterward, we headed into a room filled with... candy! We were each given two pieces of colorful (or, in my case, not-so-colorful) candy, instructed to try each of them both separately & together. I had the black & white pairing you see below - black licorice & vanilla. I thought I'd hate the former, but paired with the latter, it was actually really good.

One room was full of Mylar balloons in colors that represented sunset over the Hudson River, bearing statements from kids about their ideal world. Fans on all sides of the room kept the balloons blowing around us.

 Then we entered a life-sized flowchart, where we chose our own answers to various questions, like, "Do you like playing with fire?" & other such vital, personality-defining probes. At the end, we entered a small, private room the size of a closet, where our "secret color" was revealed.

Mine? "Artisanal School Bus," a.k.a. bright yellow, which has never been one of my favorites. Just look at how jaundiced my mega-pale self looks in that third photo below! Still, I wasn't unhappy with my big reveal. It was kind of fun - & that color name can't be beat.

When we exited our closet, we took a small, paint-chip-like tag off the wall, picking the one that bore the name of "our" color. On the back was a dance move that matched our color.

Mine, of course, was something like, "Move your hands in a steering wheel motion while quoting, 'INDOOR VOICES!'" I am offended on behalf of bus drivers everywhere - but this is also sort of how I normally dance, so it all worked out. We showed off those moves in a dimly lit, sequin-walled dance floor room, where we also tried fizzy raspberry drinks.

Even the bathrooms had good art, man. I didn't photograph the toilet seat because that's weird, but the seat covers were clear with silver glitter inside them, & this eyelash art was everywhere.

The last installation of the day was a giant ball pit, a.k.a. a huge vat of other people's germs. Although it freaked me out mightily, because who knows what's lurking in here, I loved this whole experience. The balls were soft & squishy, & the pit itself was deep, so you could really just sort of sink in & get lost in a sea of plastic balls.

At the end of the exhibit, we got light blue gelato (colored with pea shoots!) to resemble the balls in the ball pit, plus a freebie of our choice from a cute little stand; I picked an enamel pin in the shape of a whale). Then we checked out the gift shop, took some more photos, & bought matching "OY VEY" keychains in bright pink. For $20. Because New York.

When you're done with the exhibit, you can pick up this map of the surrounding neighborhood, where art installations large & small are embedded throughout. We hit up one of the locations, an unassuming ATM at the Canal Street Market that dispenses money-shaped art by NYC artist Jason Polan. So cool, right?

I wish more of these bespoke pop-up experiences would make their way to Cleveland. I know we're not a "big city," in the grand scheme of things, but I think Clevelanders would really enjoy & appreciate these experiences in a way that has become rote & routine in bigger cities like NYC & San Fran. Just look how well & how quickly we sold out tickets for Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit! Invest in the Midwest, Instagram experiential museum pop-ups...

All in all, though, I'm so glad I made this one happen while I was in the city, & I loved getting to know my coworkers a little better, given that we usually only ever see one another from behind computer screens. It was such a fun day exploring the Color Factory & all of the many colorful experiences within. 

If you're in New York this summer, 10/10 would recommend visiting the Color Factory! Find tickets here.

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