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Making Memories at the Color Factory

At Color Factory, immersive installations meet Chicago sensibilities.

By Arts & Culture

Photo from Liz West’s installation at Color Factory in Chicago. Courtesy of Color Factory.

Review by Vienne Molinaro

The Color Factory, an immersive installation museum, has just opened its newest permanent location in Chicago’s Willis Tower. Adding to the roster of its two other locations in New York City and Houston, the newest location was curated and designed with the city of Chicago at the forefront, in collaboration with local establishments, organizations, and artists.

“It’s always so important to us that we pay homage to the history and the beauty of each city we’re in, and Chicago has been no exception.” states Tia Malhotra, the museum’s CEO. “Our talented artist partners have spent a lot of time studying and being inspired by the city, from its stunning architecture to its vibrant colors and communities, and they’ve incorporated these elements into their carefully curated exhibits.”

Opening with a wall of viewfinders enclosing images of Chicago used for the overall color palette by artists Edra Soto (MFA 2000) and Akilah Townsend, guests are shown the famous and mundane corners of the city. Guests can have their photos taken internally by cameras installed around the different rooms, then sent to them for free via email. 

Featuring 15 new interactive installations, all 25,000 square feet includes work appealing to all five senses. Christine Wong Yap’s “Complementary Compliments,” a Color Factory original where guests draw each other in colorful booths, returns with a Chicago-spin – Lee Crooks, the all-familiar CTA voice, narrates guests as they color in each other’s auras and portraits. Camille Walala’s PLAY maze of mirrors finds itself in this museum, converted into familiar shapes that literally “mirror” the structures found above ground. One area of this maze includes a spiraling corner to look at yourself a thousand times at once.

Photo from Emilie Baltz’s installation at Color Factory. Courtesy of Color Factory.

In one room, locals and tourists can step into the colors of the city’s flag as it rains red, white, and blue confetti. As guests make their way to the next rooms, they can pick up a bitesize rice treat as they exit.

More goodies can be found around the museum, from local ice cream from Kurimu, to old-fashioned popping candy. In Emilie Baltz’s installation, guests are encouraged to visualize flavor and color in a bright movie theater. At the end of the aisle lined with rainbow desk chairs, a circular screen displaying shapes and colors squiggles down the line. Spoiler alert: Soda does have a color.

Guests can enjoy a color-changing drink from Te’Amo as they walk through Liz West’s color-mixing light installation: a series of mirrored rooms, each with two light panels of different colors shining from the ceiling.

“Pathless Woods” by Anne Patterson, with its touch-sensitive tendrils. Courtesy of Color Factory.

Another highlight includes Anne Patterson’s synesthetic forest. A new, Chicago iteration of “Pathless Woods”, this room consists of 10 miles of sound-specific ribbon (the colors synchronize with the music’s crescendo and decrescendo) where the orchestra creates the colors. With a clearing in the far corner of this woodland painting, guests will feel as if they have stepped out of the city and into a fairytale.

But it is the museum’s finale that is the star of the show.

Chicago’s motto, “City in a Garden,” is rendered into a sage green indoor park with a 200,000-ball ball pit. Adrian Kay Wong’s site-specific mural, a monochromatic landscape of the city and its notable landmarks twisting in modern form reigns before the pool, a proud example of architectural and modern art history “on a piece of travertine preserved from the foundation of the original Sears Tower.” as stated in the press release. Wrapping up with a playground says a lot about the museum itself, as it plays with the city in a way no other immersive experience has before. Whether you have lived in the city your whole life, or just passing through a visit, Color Factory Chicago emerges as a multicolor love letter to the city above.


Color Factory Chicago will be open Tuesday – Sunday from 9am-8pm. Tickets are available for purchase for $38 for General Admission, and $28 for Children (3-12). To purchase visit:

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