San Diego’s the guinea pig for a new kind of exhibition

Wonderspaces” is being billed as a “pop-up museum of extraordinary experiences” - think carnival, but with artists and art installations instead of carnies and Ferris wheels.

The new, family-friendly art event will set up inside a big white tent in Mission Valley from June 2 through the end of July. For $24, folks can wander through the tent and see virtual reality movies, full-room art installations and sculptures meant to play with perception. After its San Diego run, the show will head on a cross-country tour.

That’s the idea anyway, but first the founders have to figure out if it’ll actually work.

Wonderspaces introduces a new, somewhat risky business model for showing art. Big upfront costs are involved with staging large pop-up art exhibitions, but if enough people buy tickets, organizers and artists could eventually turn a nice profit.

The event is the brainchild of Jason Shin and Patrick Charles, two former Marines who spent the last year working to create an art experience that’s accessible, family-friendly and appealing to a wide swath of people.

“We’re hoping this exhibition achieves a new form of art entertainment,” Shin said. “Why can’t this be a different model where the artists are being financially compensated in addition to getting their names out there?”

Shin said he and Charles are paying all the upfront costs and that the artists will be paid something akin to a licensing fee every month their work is on the tour.

The lineup of artists featured in the show includes Karina Smigla-Bobinski, Shawn Causey, Mark Daniell, Davis McCarty, Michael Murphy, Adam Belt and other international creators known for multimedia installations.

Belt, the only San Diego artist in the show, is building on a piece called “A Religious Experience” that he once showed at La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library. It’s an installation that uses rays of light to explore the connections between the cosmos and spirituality.

“It’s about the parallels between astronomy, religion and wonder,” Belt said.

Like most of the works in the show, Belt said his is meant to give viewers an immersive, maybe even mind-blowing experience that goes beyond average art viewing.

Shin said he thinks the type of work selected for the show is accessible and interesting enough to attract people from inside and outside the art world.

“We don’t come from the traditional art background,” he said. “I think that works to our benefit.”

Shin said San Diego’s size, demographics, nice weather and other factors led the organizers to use the city as a “Wonderspaces” test case. The event space is already built, now Shin and his partner are crossing their fingers and hoping that enough people show up to make the show financially viable.

“We just see these extraordinary experiences the artists have created and feel like there is a demand for sharing these kind of experiences with your family or friends,” Shin said. “I mean, that’s the question we’re asking, but we believe very much that this will work.”

Wonderspaces will be closed on Mondays and will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

$16-$20. Located on the crosstreets of Russell Parkway and Civita Boulevard in Mission Valley.

Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.