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Lighthouse Chicago

A conversation with Irina Shabshis and Maria Shclover


MAR 03, 2023 | ISSUE 10

Immersive Van Gogh Chicago by Michael Brosilow
Maria Shclover
Irina Shabshis

In the heart of the Near North Side Chicago neighbourhood, Lighthouse Immersive planted new roots in a 130-year-old architectural marvel. The Germania Club Building is already an art piece of its own, and now the building hosts the newest, most cutting-edge immersive exhibit: Immersive Van Gogh. Originating in Toronto, this expansion to the Windy City was made possible by the collaboration between Irina Shabshis and Maria Shclover of Maestro Artist Management, and Lighthouse Immersive.

Maestro Artist Management Inc. (MAM) has been operating since 2004 as a production company and has been

working alongside Svetlana Dvoretsky—Founder, President & Producer of Show One Productions and Co-Founder of Lighthouse Immersive—to bring artistic productions to North America. “We always do something creative to introduce people to different varieties of art,” says Shabshis. Shclover, who had the pleasure of seeing the Atelier des Lumières’s van Gogh exhibit in Paris, recalls how she “fell in love with it in Paris,” and has “been looking for an opportunity to bring it to North America.” Alongside Lighthouse Immersive, and against the odds of a global pandemic, Immersive Van Gogh continues to thrive in Chicago.

For Shclover and Shabshis, Chicago was the perfect fit for Immersive Van Gogh. “Chicago was always a market where we, as a company, worked for many years; I enjoy the city myself. Chicago is cultural, vibrant, and artistic,” says Shclover. “So many successful projects started here.” Indeed, whether it's museums, galleries, or the architecture of the city itself, you can find art everywhere. “Chicago on its own is its own art exhibit,” Shabshis continues, “so for a creative exhibit like Immersive Van Gogh, it’s the perfect city to start with.”

The Germania Club Building is a five-story structure nestled within the Chicago arts community, and is known for its large limestone base and housing a giant ceramic tableau that reads “The Glory of Germania.” Constructed in the 19th century, the Germania Clubhouse Building is a Victorian-style architectural landmark. Shabshis explains that the beauty of the building cannot be ignored, and Immersive Van Gogh highlights the architecture of the space as part of the experience.

Immersive Van Gogh Chicago by Michael Brosilow

Lighthouse Immersive takes up 90% of the building across four floors. Entering from the heart of the Golden Coast, near Old Town Chicago, the first floor is reserved for the lobby area and coat check, while the second floor contains the merchandise shop, café, a seating area, and a lounge space with a bar. The experience begins on the third floor, and the layout spreads out across four other rooms, allowing different viewpoints on the experience. As patrons make their way through these rooms, ending up in the ballroom, they will then make their way up to the fourth floor that leads them to a balcony where they can see the entire ballroom from above—examining the art from a completely different vantage point.

Adapting an immersive installation like Immersive Van Gogh to a completely different architecture is always a challenge. After all, the Golden Age Victorian-style building is quite different from the venue that hosts the original Toronto exhibit. “Germania Club has a completely different character,” says Shabshis. “Our Italian designers adjusted the exhibit to the sheer volume and elegance of this classic space.” She stresses the importance of making sure the exhibit naturally fits the space. “When you go with the flow, you don’t just stay still. You look at the beautiful pictures and drawings, but you actually go, and the images will move with you. So it will bring a different perspective and view.”