Go behind the made-for-Instagram museum trend with the creators of Austin’s first immersive art experience.

By Danielle Ortiz, Photos Jana Cantua and Danielle Ortiz

The rainbow-colored staircase to enter the FOMO Factory is just a taste of the sensory experience and potential selfies that await inside.

The pop-up museum took over a two-story building in the Red River Cultural District Sept. 14 as one of Austin’s first immersive selfie experiences. It will be open through October.

The FOMO Factory is a mix of art and interactive experiences in the style of other popular experiential museums, like the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco and local blogger Jane Ko’s Museum of Donuts, which are less curated museum, more social-media playground.

Surprised experiential museums didn’t exist in Austin, locals Rachel Youens and Kara Whitten collaborated to bring their idea to life. They hope FOMO Factory encourages people to let loose and have fun.

To fully immerse in this alternate fun reality, guests have to choose a nickname to enter the space. Then they get to explore a whimsical array of seven interactive and Instagram-ready installations, including birthday-, playground- and beach-themed rooms, just to name a few.

Youens, a former marketer for Electronic Arts, came up with the idea of bringing an immersive art space designed for taking selfies to Austin after following the trend of made-for-Instagram museums.

“I’ve been tracking this trend for some amount of time now,” Youens says. “As a marketer, I know millennials and Generation Z are much more interested in investing their money into experiences than they are in things.”

The FOMO Factory collaborated with Texas-based brands like NadaMoo, Snapple, May Designs and Shop Luella for help designing installations and offering guests some sweet treats. Mica May of May Designs created an installation in the school-themed room. May customized notebooks and colorful lockers as props, and her products are also carried in FOMO Factory’s gift shop.

“Teaming up with the FOMO Factory was a natural fit to our aesthetic,” May says. “I was super excited to participate because I love the throwback theme!”

Youens first reached out to Whitten, a blogger and designer, via Instagram to start dreaming. They wanted to create an all-inclusive experience, which led them to the theme of childhood, a memory that applies to everyone, regardless of race or gender. In six months, their dream became a reality.

“This is a chance for people to relive their childhood or even reclaim it,” Youens says. “Maybe you were bullied on the playground. Now this is your chance to be queen of the playground.”

Whitten never visited any of the trendy interactive museums that inspired FOMO Factory, which gave her creative freedom. She tapped into the magic of nostalgia to bring the museum to life.

“I’ve been surprised at people’s blind trust that it’s going to be amazing because we started selling tickets in July, when it was just a concept,” Whitten says. “It showed that people were ready for something like this.”

There’s more to the FOMO Factory than just selfies. Youens and Whitten want visitors to leave with more than a camera roll full of photos.

“There will be people coming to simply take photos, but getting them outside and interacting face to face is our secret agenda,” Youens says. “We draw them in with our colors but we keep them with the fun.”

The FOMO Factory runs through Oct. 21 at 720 Red River St. Tickets for the FOMO Factory are on sale now and are $23 per person. Children ages 3 and younger are free.




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