Most contemporary art is not original, says 24-year-old art school graduate Steffi Lynn Tsai.
“But the way you do it is.”
On Friday, the Brooklyn, New York, artist and Texas native debuted a new immersive art installation called Museum of Memories in Old East Dallas. It’s a big, colorful place for the Instagram obsessed. It’s not the first of its kind in Dallas-Fort Worth, and it won’t be the last. But it’s Tsai’s first big art installation project, and her style is splashed all over its walls.
She spent two months, often alone, painting inside the 5,000-square-foot former nightclub. While some of Dallas’ other Instagram installations like Sweet Tooth Hotel and Psychedelic Robot utilize a team of artists, giving each one a room to shine, Tsai is the only artist at the Museum of Memories. She did have some help painting each wall a solid color, she says, before starting the technical art process. She completed a dozen or more murals.
“Doing this has helped me a lot, personally,” she said. “It’s nice to call this my project.”
In black-and-white rooms that look like life-sized coloring books, she free-handed each cutesy flower, cowboy hat or piece of fruit without much of a plan. “I kind of stand here and just start drawing,” she says. She made one mistake in those three rooms, which she covered with a 1-inch slather of white paint.
She laughed, “I work really well under pressure.”
The Museum of Memories is a project between Tsai and her 26-year-old brother Stefan Tsai. (Steffi and Stefan are named after tennis players Steffi Graf and Stefan Edberg. “My dad is the tennis fan,” Stefan explains, “and my mom just likes matching names.”)
Stefan owns Project Panic Escape Room in Dallas and has partnered with his sister on the Museum of Memories.
“I think we both grew up wanting to make things,” Steffi says.
Steffi also operates an Etsy shop called haveanicedayy, and the aesthetic inside the Museum of Memories seems like an extension of Steffi’s colorful work online.
At the Museum of Memories, like many popular new art exhibitions, attendees are encouraged to touch the murals, pick up the props and mug for the camera. The room includes two ball pits — practically a must-have in these types of installations: one where attendees can sit in a giant bowl of cereal and another in a claw-foot bathtub.
There’s also a room with clouds, where perfectly positioned people will look like they’re floating. In a vignette designed to look like a girly middle-school bedroom, attendees can pose with a larger-than-life pencil and a 5-foot-tall diary.
Some of the 20-plus colors used include coral, summer yellow, sky blue and sage green. “The paint guy knows me,” Steffi said of her daily trips to Home Depot.
The Museum of Memories signed a two-year lease, but Steffi says she’ll likely change up the murals in August or September.
Tickets are good for one hour inside the Museum of Memories, and they cost $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 4 to 12; kids 3 and under are free.
The Tsais encourage child participation.
“We’ve designed a playground of sorts,” Stefan said.
Museum of Memories is now open at 4428 Main St. in Dallas.