The immersive art event group Hopscotch first debuted its mix of fantastical, technology-driven, immersive art installations in Austin in February. Later this year, Hopscotch plans to open its first permanent gallery space in the Travis Park Plaza Building in downtown San Antonio.

To fill its nearly 18,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, Hopscotch has issued an open call for artists to submit proposals to create “experiential art” installations. Hopscotch founders Nicole Jensen and Hunter Inman are looking to bring together 12 to 14 installations by individual artists and artist collaboratives, which could include interactive technology such as sound- and movement-triggered lighting effects, projection mapping, optical illusions, experimental architecture, kinetic and robotic art, inflatable structures, and anything else artists can dream up.

“We’re very much open to the odd, the weird, the strange, the interesting,” Inman said. “We very much want to invite people to bring their creativity to us, to think beyond their limitations.

“There’s no wrong answer – we’re open to a lot of things,” Jensen said, and indeed, the Hopscotch request for proposals focuses not on specifics, but on a more nebulous goal not often explicitly stated in contemporary art: “Our aim is to elicit a sense of joy and wonder in the space we curate,” it states.

Inman and Jensen specifically encourage artists from San Antonio and the surrounding region to submit ideas, whether or not they personally have expertise in the newer technologies used in immersive and experiential art.

“We want to have conversations and be less formal,” Inman said, “to open a conversation about really diving into what we can create.” With its contacts in the event-production industry, Hopscotch can help foster collaborations between artists and experts in whichever technologies seem appropriate to their ideas.

The organization also provides funding, from $5,000 to $20,000 per installation depending on the scale and resources required, and the installations will remain on view for a significant amount of time, with an intent to change them out periodically but no set end date.

During its seven-week “popup” event earlier in 2019, Hopscotch inhabited a former outlet store in north Austin. Several among its dozen installation rooms quickly became popular bait for social media, appearing frequently on Instagram.

Matt Elson’s Infinity Boxes proved highly Instagrammable, producing startling images of multiply-cloned human faces, but the artist said they are primarily physical experiences.

“Perception is the medium that I’m exploring,” Elson said. “I make art inside your brain.”

Infinity Boxes by Matt Elson
Infinity Boxes by Matt Elson Credit: Courtesy / Hopscotch

Though much experiential and participatory art uses new technology, Elson describes his own as of the “16th and 18th centuries,” when mirrors were used by Leonardo da Vinci, for example, to create special effects like seeing the back of one’s head or multiplying forms.

Still, he welcomes the interaction of new technology with actual, on-site experience. “I’m totally down with it,” he said of his work frequently being shared on Instagram, but one museum director who showed his work said though it’s possible to make interesting photographs of the work, “you’ve gotta have the experience, you need to come see them” to truly appreciate the effect.

Elson, from Los Angeles, was one of the few non-Texas artists to participate in the first Hopscotch event, but he appreciates the group’s focus on local artists. “They’ve made a very noble attempt to work with regional artists, and there’s a deep and rich talent pool in Texas to draw from,” he said.

Jensen and Inman also appreciate their new locale. “San Antonio has always been such a great market for art,” Inman said. “Austin is a great creative hub, but when you actually dive in and look at the community and the support around the art, San Antonio has a much more developed sense of community.”

Inman cited San Antonio’s growth and recent changes as a reason to make a permanent home for Hopscotch in the city, which he said “obviously has a community and a culture and a soul that is unique.”

“We felt every time we’re in San Antonio, we feel that soul and energy and excitement. That was really appealing,” Jensen said of their decision to locate in the city.

The Travis Park Plaza Building is owned by GrayStreet Partners and is among several of its downtown properties.

“We’ve been trying to find ways to fill our spaces with interesting tenants,” said Peter French, GrayStreet’s director of development, and looking to “help make San Antonio’s city center a little bit more livable.”

Jensen said Hopscotch also will feature a large bar and patio area and a gift shop, all accessible without needing a ticket. Tickets for the immersive art experience will run in the $22 range, with special pricing for children. Tickets will be time- and date-specific to help control the flow of people through the installations to promote the best experience for all visitors, Jensen said.

Seeing firsthand what Hopscotch achieved in Austin “helped confirm for us this would be something very positive” for the Travis Park Plaza Building, French said. “We were looking for something that wasn’t expected, and they definitely fit that bill.”

Artists may submit proposals via email through Aug. 15, with details available on the Hopscotch website.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...