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Las Vegas' exploding immersive entertainment scene takes you inside artists' minds

Kristen DeSilva/KNPR

Area 15 CEO Winston Fisher at KNPR.

For years, the Las Vegas Strip took you to other places: Paris, Venice, ancient Rome, even Camelot.

But in the last few years, it’s taking people to a place a lot wouldn’t expect—into the minds and works of artists.

There are virtual and augmented reality arcades, and live entertainment has really changed the look and feel of theater.

With entertainment taking over gaming as the reason tourists are drawn to Las Vegas, these attractions are becoming more and more important to the success of the Strip.

Area 15 is one of those places. It was recently voted the No. 1 immersive art experience in the world by Blooloop, a leading news website about the attractions industry. Winston Fisher, is the company's CEO.

"We're kind of a theme park. But we're not a theme park. We're an event center, we're a club, we're a festival ... And the truth is nothing like this exists," he said.

Corvas Brinkerhoff, co-founder of Meow Wolf and creative director of Omega Mart, walks through Omega Mart, an immersive art installation by arts production company Meow Wolf, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP/John Locher)

Area 15 is home to Meow Wolf and Omega Mart, both interactive, immersive experiences. Meow Wolf probably drives about 45% of the traffic to Area 15, Fisher said. 

Matt King, its founder, recently died at age 37. 

"Matt was an incredible, incredible person. Actually, somebody described it really well, I think was Vince. He was doing immersive art experiences before people knew what that word was. I mean, he is a pioneer in this space. And I've always been blessed that my involvement with Meow Wolf allowed me to work closely with him. Got to see his brilliance," Fisher said.

Social media is incredibly important in this business, he said. Think of the infinity rooms, popularized in galleries nationwide. You've most likely seen one on social media.

"But we are not creating something because it's Instagrammable, we're creating something we genuinely think is amazing. And it's authentic, and cool. What might be cool to us and not cool to somebody else, that I can't promise you. But we genuinely think whatever we put in that space is cool," Fisher said.

What's next for Area 15? He said they're working on lodging and dining.

"We love the Strip, but we're going to do things they can't do."

Omega Mart is "fascinating" to Los Angeles Times reporter Todd Martens, who said experiences like that put an emphasis on how much people want to participate in experiences.

He said nearly every major city has an immersive experience. 

I think what you're seeing is a lot of hunger for us to sort of, people who grew up with games in particular, and people who grew up with entertainment in which they can sort of have a malleable role in, I think you're seeing a lot of hunger for that, a lot of hunger to sort of feel like you are having a role you are able to change or shift, you're able to shape the narrative," Martens said.

Mike Prevatt wrote more about two new immersive art experiences in Desert Companion's Fifth Street. 

Todd Martens, entertainment reporter, Los Angeles Times;  Winston Fisher, CEO, Area 15

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.