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The Velaslavaysay Panorama preserving the art of painting big pictures

by Mukta Mohan | Off-Ramp®

The Effulgence of the North is a 360 degree painting that pays homage to the panoramas of the 19th century.

Before there were movies, people would go to panoramas for entertainment. They would walk down a dark hallway, ascend a spiral staircase, and enter a foreign land depicted in a 360-degree painting in a circular room. Often these panoramas would have a soundtrack, creating a totally immersive experience -- sort of like a modern day art installation. 

Though this technology was first popular in the 19th century, the Velaslavaysay Panorama--in West Adams--is trying to save the art form. Currently, founder and artist Sara Velas has a panorama on display called The Effulgence of the North. It's an immersive exploration of an arctic night scene illuminated by the Aurora Borealis, surrounding the reader at over feet in circumference and heights of up to 12 feet. Sounds of cracking ice and three dimensional sculptures expand the space.

Originally housed in Hollywood's Tswuun-Tswunn Rotunda, the Panorama relocated to a silent movie theater in 2004. Ironically, silent films were the same technology that replaced panoramas as an attraction.

Velas' panorama brings back an old world sense of entertainment, but more than that: "It also includes a variety of folk music and other storytelling methods, that people would have used to entertain themselves, and that have maybe fallen to the fringe a little bit," she said.

To get a taste of how people went to the movies before there were movies visit the Velaslavaysay Panorama.

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