Throughout the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought sweeping restrictions that dramatically limited access to live events and the arts all across the world. Whether it was a football game, a concert or a trip to the fair, there has never been such an overwhelming lull for cultural and creative experiences.

Here in British Columbia, where those kinds of experiences are a cornerstone for so many residents and communities, this huge pause has been felt deeply.

Thankfully, with the success of the British Columbia’s response effort, low transmission and a growing vaccination count, the province announced that it would enter the next phase of its Restart Plan, allowing for even more opportunities and experiences as the region opens up just in time for summer.

Imagine Van Gogh – The Immersive Exhibition recently celebrated its 100th day in operation in June, and it has since become a vibrant source of history, art and culture for British Columbians eager to have a unique live experience at a time when it’s needed the most. Due to its ongoing popularity, the Exhibit also recently extended its run at the Convention Centre until September 7th.

Bryan Ralphs, Manager of Guest Experience at the Convention Centre, has seen many reactions to the exhibit first-hand and can attest.

“I have personally spoken to many guests coming out of the exhibit, and I can tell you that this has been a cathartic and sometimes emotional experience for a lot of them. It’s wonderful to see guests enjoying something live and real after such a long time, safely.”

Since first opening, thousands of attendees have come to see the works of Vincent Van Gogh in a way unlike ever before. And it was no small effort to create and implement safely.

“We have proudly been open 7 days a week, 15 hours a day, since March 19, 2021. Our successful operations, rooted in proper planning and staff training, are a testament to our commitment to health and safety,” explains Justin Paquin, Producer, Paquin Entertainment Group. “It has been our privilege to be entrusted to provide a safe and entertaining experience during this global pandemic."

Through its inventive presentation of art and history, Imagine Van Gogh has brought warmth, inspiration and joy to so many guests who have been eager to have a real experience during such a difficult time. (It’s even become one of the most important places in a relationship for some guests, acting as the perfect spot for a wedding proposal.)

The exhibit has also created opportunities for community groups such as Kids Up Front to come and learn about the incredible works of Vincent Van Gogh first-hand.

COVID-19 has had such a devastating impact across the world, and continues to shape our daily lives as we navigate our recovery and return to relative normalcy. Yet, through exhibits such as Imagine Van Gogh, as well as other experiences that are opening or re-opening at an increasing rate, that road can begin to feel a bit easier as we start to have those unforgettable moments once again – or as Vincent Van Gogh has said, “There is peace even in the storm.”