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Blog article 12 min read

Meet the immersive venue that will elevate your next event

Preslea Jane

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Calling in from the brick-walled loft at the top of Lume Studios is Marcel Lipari. He’s been at the studio for 15 months now, and it’s been around for 5 years, undergoing innovation after innovation, with new ones on the way.

The three stories, soon to be five, with an underground space as a blank canvas for experiential events, are designed to be activated in a multitude of ways. At Lume, collaboration, innovation, and fun are key.

With tons of experience in immersive corporate and brand events, as well as the art and fashion scene, the Tribeca-based gem is a venue, creative studio and production company in one, that promises to take your event to a new level.

Who is Marcel Lipari? Where are you from, and how did you come to be running a space in New York?

I was born here in Manhattan at St. Vincent’s Hospital on 12th Street — formerly, it’s not there anymore. I spent my very young years in Manhattan, and grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey in a town called Tenafly. I went to school in Arizona, and have been back in New York ever since I graduated college.

I’ve spent most of my career working at ad agencies in varying roles, doing branded content and product management. And I’ve always loved live events, whether it’s live music and concerts, throwing my own parties, art and museums and galleries. I’ve always really loved live experiences, live events, bringing people together.

I started my own art and music experience called Kind Mischief to bring really talented, emerging New York artists together in a party format, raising money for local, grassroots organizations such as Project Renewal. That was my first foray into event production, which was right before the whole world shut down.

Coming out of the pandemic, I was connected through a friend who was working with Dotan, the founder of Lume Studios. Things were starting to get more active here in New York, and the studio was getting busier. Currently, I’m the general manager, so I handle all of the events and business operations here in the studio.

Why is it important to you for an event space to be immersive?

With immersive events and immersive spaces, there’s so much incredible new technology now, whether it’s projection mapping, lighting technology, LED technology with screens and LED walls. All of these things transform spaces and create incredible experiences. To operate, it’s sophisticated, but for the guests, and for the organizer, it’s relatively turnkey. It creates a way to develop really dynamic and incredible live experiences, out of any space.

There is so much potential in terms of visuals. What you can do with the current technology is really exciting, and in a space like Lume, at its core, it’s just a white box. But there’s so much versatility with the environments and experiences we can create using immersive technology.

We can do everything from a more dynamic corporate presentation to a really interesting and fun product launch for a brand to a digital art show.

There are other immersive, experiential studios in New York… What sets Lume apart?

There are other spaces that do projection mapping and have some of the immersive tech that we offer. I would say what sets Lume apart is really our expertise in not only the immersive technology, but also creating content and visuals to really maximize the potential of those things.

As well, Lume is one of the original spaces in New York to really be doing this. The studio has been around for five years, and I would say Dotan, the founder, was ahead of the curve in a lot of ways in terms of developing the space in this way and has really immersed himself in immersive technology, if you will. The same goes for the evolution of digital art and these new digital mediums to create experiences with.

So, not only are we a venue, but we’re also a creative studio and production company. We can work with clients to not just take their content and map it and use the technology, we go a step further to develop really incredible, dynamic and interactive content with custom animation and sound design.

Our expertise in being able to maximize the potential of what an immersive venue can offer is really what sets Lume apart.

Walk me through the different levels of the venue?

We have our premiere space which is what we call The Immersive Studio, which is our ground floor, white box, storefront space. It was a storefront retail space accessible directly from Broadway, and is a large white box space where we’ve got projection mapping, a customizable spotlighting system, a 17-speaker surround-sound JBL soundscape system, lots of great tech in that space.

And then there’s the basement studio, which is called The Blackout Studio. It has been built as a digital gallery and interactive space. There are 19 different monitors, LED 4K screens that are in different monitor wall formats and lots of cool lighting. Almost every placement there is interactive, which is a lot of fun. So The Immersive Studio and The Blackout Studio work in tandem.

As well, we have the second and fourth-floor loft spaces. The second floor we call The Eden Loft, which is more of your downtown Manhattan, Soho loft space with tall ceilings, exposed brick, wood floors. It’s a lovely space that can be activated in tandem with the first floor.

The fourth-floor loft, which is where I’m sitting right now, is a similar setup to that which can be activated as back-of-house for events, more intimate meetings, more intimate gatherings. It’s like a VIP area, or a green room.

So, we have levels, and there are lots of ways that the spaces can be activated uniquely or altogether to create really great events.

There is a third and fifth floor, but right now there is a creative agency that has its offices there. Having said that, at the beginning of April, we’re going to take over those spaces. The idea is to activate them as traditional and digital gallery spaces, art spaces and event spaces — but to be a bit more permanently installed as art spaces. I would say a common thread in Lume Studios is an artistic presence and the support of artists — a desire to be not only the venue, but really a hub and a platform and a space for artists.

What are some events that have stood out the most to you?

We get to work with a ton of really special and diverse clients, so they stand out for different reasons. We got to work with Adidas last year on an exhibition that was called Showtime at Forum Forever that supported The Forum sneaker. It was essentially an art exhibition that elevated a lot of different New York and other artists to translate different classic, inherent New York places and feelings into their artwork, and through the lens of the sneaker. That was an awesome experience to have developed that exhibition with them and develop that show.

In the art space, we’ve also looked at a ton in the NFT and Web3 space over the past year, which was super exciting. Everyone’s heard about NFTs at this point, and it’s become such a hot topic. We’ve been blessed to work with a ton of major players in the space. We did a really cool pop-up with Coinbase and Hypebeast, where they displayed digital art and had a retail pop-up, that was a lot of fun. We’ve had the opportunity to work with a ton of really incredible digital arts, like NFT.NYC last year. It was super active. We had a different, incredible Web3 NFT project in there every day. With the event for that we did, we got to display a ton of really incredible NFT and digital artwork that we still even to this day showcase in the space.

Even in the more traditional art space, there was one event that didn’t take advantage of any of our digital systems, surprisingly enough. It was still a really cool experience, with an artist called Robin Eley. He did a two-week exhibition called Private Collection / Closed for Installation. The concept is the greatest collection of artworks that never existed. His style of artwork is that he paints these very photorealistic masterworks, like Mona Lisa, but as if they’re in varying degrees of being unpackaged. So it looks like some of them are wrapped in bubble wrap, so realistic that from a foot away, you can’t tell that they’re not real.

The idea for the exhibition was that it be a classic gallery space. The studio was transformed into a room in the MET, which is pretty cool. They painted the walls, there was wainscotting, they brought in fake wood floors. The idea was that all these artworks are being unpacked to put on this exhibition of the greatest collection of masterworks never actually assembled. So that was also a really cool experience to see the studio not using any of our immersive and digital tech.

What interesting events have you seen happening with corporate teams?

One that comes to mind is when we helped develop some really great content for the Smartly Sofa Summit. It was for a more corporate tech company called Smartly, and they did a presentation which was really cool and dynamic in the space.

For corporate bookings, the great thing about Lume is that it actually is a great place to do these things. I feel like for so long, the spaces for these were a stuffy conference room in some hotel that was really dated. Whereas Lume obviously has all the capabilities of being able to present a PowerPoint and all that, but because of immersive systems, you can take it so much further.

The best example that’s standing out to me is the fashion brand Rains. They’re a Danish streetwear brand and make great bags, gear, and more. They did their global sales conference with us, and all of their global sales teams joined us for a presentation about their new collection.

So they’re able to present the nuts and bolts on one wall, their graphs, these different things. But they’re also able to have some really great accompanying visuals down the sidewalls. We’ve been able to do a small runway show as well, to display the products.

There are lots of ways that at Lume these presentations can come to life in a much more dynamic and engaging way. And with that you can have a lot of fun, have a happy hour or activate the space in other ways — versus everyone sitting around, staring at one wall.

How does the location of the venue within the city impact the identity and feel of the venue?

I think we have one of the best locations in New York. We’re right on the border of Soho and Tribeca. Being a space that tries to embrace art in many forms, Tribeca has become one of the biggest art destinations in the entire world. We’re right next door to the new Pace Gallery, right across the street from PPOW. There are a ton of other galleries and art spaces in the neighborhood that are already open or that are opening soon. That’s the really exciting thing about Tribeca right now.

As well, we’re literally a stone’s throw from one of the best retail neighborhoods in the entire world, Soho. So for things like retail pop-ups, which are a big part of our business, we’re a storefront retail space essential in Broadway, right next to Soho, with a ton of traffic and a ton of visibility.

It’s really fabulous for any brands or companies that are looking to have that visibility, looking for people to be able to walk in off the street. With our 20-foot retail facade, any client can promote their brand and create product displays.

One of the really fun things about the studio is that we have a theatre-style marquee, so you can put up any fun phrasing, and it’s another great opportunity for exposure in one of the most prime neighborhoods in New York and in the world.

What is your vision for 2023?

For us, in terms of the space and the physical venue, continue to innovate. We’re always building, always trying to develop new and fun ways to activate the space through different technology. Even with the past couple of weeks, we’ve built what I would call a monitor sculpture. It’s a bunch of ultra-wide, 4K LED screens that you can take out and move around and create shapes with and interact with, and that was in our Blackout Studio. So I would say, innovate and stay ahead of the curve in terms of the technology that we integrate into the space.

For the business at large, obviously continue to work with the great clients that we have in terms of brands, as well as expand more into the corporate space with really fun and interesting and dynamic corporate presentations and events. And then grow our business with brands, even more so than it already is.

What is it about being the manager of such a venue that makes you want to get out of bed each morning?

Making a bunch of money for the space. No, no, I mean I get really excited by our clients and the projects that we get to do. We get to work with incredible global brands, like I mentioned, from Adidas to Chase to Bombay Sapphire to Reebok to Dr. Jart+ who we just did something with on Thursday. We’re working with the brand AND1. They’re this old streetwear basketball brand from the early 2000s. I’m dating myself a little bit, but they were around when I was a kid, and they’re doing their 30th birthday celebration with us. They’re going to be celebrating the last 30 years and the next 30 years of the brand. So that’s kind of a nostalgic one for me. Yeah, I would say it’s really working with our incredible clients, getting to work with some of the really cool experiences we get to put on.

What is your creative approach to running an agency and experiential venue?

I would say collaboration. Any sort of agency or venue like ours is a sum of many parts. Specifically with the creative work we do, I’m always amazed with our team internally, the way they’re able to innovate, the things they’re able to come up with, the visuals they can create, the projects that they achieve. I’m always inspired by them.

As well, there are a lot of amazing people that we work with as contractors, anyone that comes in and out that we do a project with, whether that’s from our side to achieve a client project, or even from the clients themselves. I think that’s how you really create the best products, having lots of talented people, lots of perspectives that come together, culminating in something really, really special.

How did you become connected with Planned and how has that experience been?

Working with Planned has been fabulous. I mean, the whole team is great. Leyla, Lucie, and all of them, they were super fantastic to work with to do EventLab. Speaking of collaboration, that was a very collaborative effort between us. They were wonderful to plan with. We got to show off a lot of our animation skills, we put together some custom animations for the event which was really great. Even having the different vendors that Planned brought in; Purslane and 4am, was fantastic and really helped elevate the whole experience.

We’ve been a member on the platform for a little while, and this experience was so fabulous because we were able to really build a stronger and deeper relationship with Planned and the team there. We’re excited for the rest of the year and to create a lot more amazing activations with the team at Planned.

What are your other favourite vendors in the city you love to work with?

We work with a lot of caterers. Our neighbour actually right here, GO catering, worked with us for our own open house event last night. Fabulous. They’re located right on Lispenard, right here in Tribeca. In my opinion, the best food in terms of any of the different catering companies. Gabrielle over there is fabulous.

I’ve done a lot of work with ATD AV on the audiovisual side of things, and they’ve always been incredible. Like I mentioned, we’re a venue, but we’re also a production company. So when clients come to us and they want to develop the experience that we offer here in the studio and in our venue, if we’re constricted by the parameters of the size and space, we can produce things outside of the studio. When those opportunities arise, I’ve worked with ATD, the AV company, and they kill it, they’re amazing. They’re also very well-versed in projection mapping and much of the immersive stuff we do here. They’re fabulous to work with, and we’ve always pulled off some really cool projects with them.

We also have relationships with Bednark, who’s a fabricator. We’ve done some great work with Robert Taylor & Co., he’s very talented. He does a lot of set design for music videos, TV shows, but he’s a really talented fabricator as well.

Sum up Lume Studios in three words, please:

immersive, collaborative, fun

With some venues, you book it, they give you the keys, and they’re very hands-off. We work very closely with our clients to create the best experience possible, to maximize the experience. It’s a very collaborative process with us.

The only way you could possibly have more detail on the space after reading this is by heading there yourself. We’re certain you’ll be pleased you did!