A Texas Art Gallery Is Taking Over an Old Orchard Hardware
When describing their San Antonio, Texas, art gallery to friends and relatives, Hopscotch founders Hunter Inman and Nicole Jensen usually resort to videos. Descriptors like “art installation” and “immersive experience” have grown so ubiquitous they’re practically devoid of meaning. Not to mention “technology based.” The work they show, like New York artist Basia Goszczynska’s Rainbow Cave, which repurposes waste plastics to depict something akin to an ethereal ice cave, and Los Angeles artist Todd Moyer’s interactive Graffiti Laser are really better experienced than discussed.
When Hopscotch’s second outpost opens in the former Orchard Hardware space in Southeast Portland’s Goat Blocks this June, it won’t be the next OMSI; nor can it really be compared with the Portland Art Museum.
The 23,000-square-foot space is currently being sectioned into 13 individual, expansive galleries that will orbit around a central bar and lounge, offering small bites from Top Chef alum Sara Hauman. Each room will host distinct experiences: one the size of a small airplane hangar will be plastered with six murals produced in partnership with the Portland Street Art Alliance. Another, intriguingly, will house something called “the Quantum Trampoline.”
From the time you walk through the sliding glass doors, which are the only remnant of the former tenant, the idea is to “keep that fourth wall—whatever you want to call it—out,” says Inman. But for all its escapist allure and teases of sensory deprivation, Hopscotch is also “not an escape room.”
There isn’t necessarily a track to follow through the different exhibits, and you don’t, ahem, throw a rock to find out where to go next. But there is a linear flow woven into the architecture, which is designed by the local firm Waechter Architecture in collaboration with Todd Moyer, the laser graffiti guy. Tubes of colored lighting will line the dimly lit hallways and land at backlit didactic panels that introduce each room. Inman calls them “beacons.” It feels a bit like a space station. Without breaking that fourth wall, Hopscotch’s own futuristic theme functions as a kind of palate-cleansing pause between rooms.
A big pause might be for a drink and a bite in the lounge, which isn’t so much an adjacent restaurant but an exhibit in and of itself. “You're not going to come in and have a five-course meal,” says Hauman. Instead, she’s developing a menu of small bites to echo the art, playing with textures and visual elements that might trick your senses a bit. Cocktails, Jensen says, will be the opposite of an intermission plastic cup of wine at the theater. Specifics are TBD but judging from San Antonio’s horoscope-themed “mixstrology menu” (with drinks like the gin-based Meteor Shower with watermelon, dill, and kiwi-flavored boba, and cotton candy–topped glasses of Champagne), it won’t be a vodka-soda vibe. NA cocktails might similarly be decorated with “electric dust” and edible orchids.
We’re not quite sure exactly how the aforementioned Quantum Trampoline works. But as the name suggest, the interactive piece, produced by the Russian “laboratory of interactive design and audiovisual art” Kuflex, projects audio and visual representations of the energy your summersaults and double-bounces put off in real time through sound design and 360-degree projectors.
There’s also a secret room. Well, a room that contains secrets. The process involves, for the willing, sharing whatever weighs on one's conscience in a “privacy booth” (read: confessional). Eventually, those recordings are piped into focused sound domes, broadcasting ostensibly anonymous confessions, though in the confessor’s own voice, to strangers.
You may be wondering by this point if there’s going to be a ball pit. Not only will there be a ball pit, with an LED-lit floor, but it will be deeper than your average ball pit (three feet in contrast with the standard two), Inman says, “because we do this for adults.”
GAZE will be the final piece (square, if you will) on the informal loop around Hopscotch. The labyrinth of black-lit, transparent acrylic panels etched with neon slogans and queer motifs is a collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the country, of which Jensen is on the board of governors.
Videos might help you understand what to expect come June, but there's really only one way to taste a cotton candy Champagne or savor a run through a ball pit.