Memphis/ Real Estate & Development
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Published on June 10, 2024
New Immersive Experience "Baron Van Opperbean" to Revitalize Former Mud Island Museum in MemphisSource: Thomas R Machnitzki, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The former Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island, which has been vacant for some years, is slated to become the stage for a new family-friendly "immersive experience" called Baron Van Opperbean and the River of Time, transforming the 33,000-square-foot space into something considerably more lively and interactive. According to a WREG report, artist and technologist Christopher Reyes, known for creating immersive art installations, has been tapped to spearhead this project, which will be his second following the success of Quadrant 360 at Off the Wall Arts in spring 2020.

Future visitors can anticipate exploring an extensive array of 18 "worlds," 25 areas, and various secretive rooms within the revamped space. A press statement obtained by WREG details the desire to construct a venue that includes 16 portals and 20 secret rooms, along with a gallery, performance space, gift shop, and ticketing area. The first exhibits are expected to open later this year with additional sections to follow in increments. Reyes is actively seeking to raise $10 million with half of that earmarked for the initial phase of development.

The Mud Island venue, which has struggled to attract crowds resulting in periodic closures since 2018, is hoped to be revitalized by this new development. According to the Commercial Appeal, the Memphis River Parks Partnership, which manages the property, expressed enthusiasm for the project which leans on inspiration from the likes of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and City Museum in St. Louis. With the riverfront area looking to experience a boost, the Baron Van Opperbean experience could very well serve as a significant complement to the broader efforts to rejuvenate Mud Island.

Reyes is not merely looking to traditional investors to bring this vision to life. A crowdfunding campaign through Wefunder provides the opportunity for Memphians to directly invest in the new venture. According to a Biz Journals report, community involvement is encouraged, with calls for local creatives and even offers for volunteer opportunities. The project emphasizes sustainability, actively soliciting donations of materials—from plywood to electronics—that can be upcycled for the development of interactive exhibits.

An economic impact report projects promising outcomes for the local economy with estimates suggesting an economic injection of $66.2 million and the creation of 566 new jobs. Reyes stated, as per WREG that the addition of this venue will mean "an incredible lift for our local economy" and is likely to increase foot traffic for downtown businesses. As the museum's collection has been transferred to the Museum of Science and History, the BVO experience promises to offer a new chapter in Mud Island's narrative, one that highlights both innovation and the potential economic revitalization of the area.

Memphis-Real Estate & Development