Color Factory Offers Child’s Play for Grownups
Any adult who’s looked enviously at children bouncing in a ball-filled playroom at a party site will be delighted with a new pop-up that opened this week in New York City’s SoHo. Billed as an “experiential art exhibit,” the Color Factory is a 20,000-square-foot venue with sixteen color-saturated rooms, reportedly inspired by the hues of the city, and bursting with lively ways for visitors to let down their hair and have some fun. From the rainbow-ribbon artwork suspended in the entry area (where colorful scoops of mochi ice cream are doled out) to a pool filled with pale blue plastic balls in the final room, visitors are treated to a series of ingeniously-designed, color-coded activities that range from mood-elevating to pleasantly silly. The experiences include a room of floating balloons inscribed with schoolchildren’s wishes for the world; another where strangers pair up and characterize each other with color; a chance to choose a path that determines their “secret color”; a disco-like room where participants are prompted to dance in a style keyed to that color; and a room where they lie down and spin on rainbow-hued tables while photographed by ceiling cameras.
Color Factory founder Jordan Ferney and his team walked the city to scout out suitable colors, and enlisted an impressive roster of local artists to devise the experiences: Lakwena Maciver, Alex Kalman / Mmuseumm, Jason Polan, Molly Young, Emanuelle Moureaux, Kendra Dandy, Christine Wong Yap, Kassia St. Clair, Tamara Shopsin, Randi Brookman Harris, Leah Rosenberg, and Erin Jang. After navigating the course, and being photographed along the way by swiping a plastic card with a personalized barcode, each visitor leaves with a small souvenir such as a rainbow-striped ruler or a perky pin. For those who aren’t altogether color-saturated by the end, a take-home map shows twenty-three more color-coded places around the city where you can encounter mini-experiences relating to particular Color Factory hues. Some must be purchased, but many are free—including a vivid striped Manhattan Color Walk installed in the garden of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Despite occasional touches of commercialism (rooms sponsored by a candy-maker, a novelty manufacturer and a cosmetics firm), and donor-credits for treats like custom-colored macarons and chewy candies , the Color Factory adds up to an hour or more of unadulterated fun. With a $38 admission fee (children under 2 are free), the experience seems targeted more to millennials (with Instagram in mind) than to youngsters, but design aficionados and color enthusiasts will definitely find it worth checking out. The original iteration, in San Francisco last year, planned a one-month opening and stayed for nine, and the Big Apple version, on Spring Street, seems likely to be another sellout, proving that anything that promises a little fun is a welcome respite in this crisis-ridden world.