NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's been quite the buzz recently about a big art exhibit featuring the work of painter Vincent Van Gogh.
The show is coming to Nashville soon — or is it?
It's already been delayed several times, and many people who bought tickets are frustrated.
The show was supposed to open back in November and here it is February and still no Van Gogh.
So NewsChannel 5 Investigates started digging and found documents that raised questions about these delays, and then went directly to one of the show's producers for answers.
The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit features massive floor-to-ceiling moving images of the Dutch painter's famous pieces set to music. And when producers announced early last year the show was coming to Nashville, they promised that guests would "experience Van Gogh’s art in a completely new and unforgettable way."
Producers say they've already sold more than 100,000 tickets for the Nashville show.
Nanci Spinks bought two of them for $120.
"April 4, the first day they went on sale," Spinks told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
She'd planned on taking her husband, Dana.
"I didn’t have any choice," he explained.
He said he's been a skeptic since he first heard about the show. And now, so is Nanci.
"I just feel like we’ve been lied to, big time," she said.
There have been questions from the start. Initially, producers would only say the show would be in "a super-secret" location.
"I was like, 'What kind of gimmick is this?'" Dana Spinks wondered.
Later, producers announced the exhibit would be in the Lighthouse Artspace, which turned out to be the old Belle Meade theatre on Harding that was also a Harris Teeter grocery store a number of years ago.
And while the Van Gogh show was supposed to open at the Artspace back in early November of last year, the site now looks pretty much the way it did when Harris Teeter moved out, hardly ready to host a major multimedia art event.
Svetlana Dvoretsky is one of the producers of Immersive Van Gogh.
"Yes, we have had some delays," she said.
In fact, the Nashville show has been postponed repeatedly.
Last October, just two weeks before the show was supposed to open, Dvoretsky's partner, Corey Ross, notified ticketholders the show would be delayed until December because they were making "artistic improvements."
Then a month later, another email and another delay. This time supposedly construction issues pushed the opening back until February.
"At that point. I was, I knew there was something not right," Dana Spinks recalled.
And then another email two weeks ago explained the exhibit was being delayed yet again, until the end of March because of "challenges caused by COVID and with the health and safety of employees and guests in mind."
"I honestly don’t think it is ever going to happen," Nanci Spinks said.
And she is not the only one with doubts.
Online, on social media sites, the comments, concerns and criticism are growing.
And producers say some 30,000 ticketholders in Nashville have already asked for refunds.
"We totally understand the frustration that people have, 100%," Dvoretsky said.
She explained they've had similar delays in many of the other cities where they're doing Van Gogh.
"We take full responsibility for the situation. We know what is happening. And we are doing everything possible. We are the last ones who want this to happen," Dvoretsky said.
But documents NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered show Immersive Van Gogh was never going to open on time.
It turns out the building plans were not even finished until late November, weeks after the show's original opening night.
And NewsChannel 5 found the production team did not even apply for a building permit for the old theatre with Metro Codes until December 2.
And they only just got the initial permit to start work in the building on January 11.
So NewsChannel 5 asked Dvoretsky, "Why were you telling people that you were going to open and you hadn’t even finished the plans? And then you told them you were going to open on another date and you hadn’t even gotten a permit from the city?"
"I’m sorry I don’t have the answers to those questions, but we have departments, and I will go to the head of the department, and I will get all the answers about the process and how the process went specifically in Nashville and I will get back to you," she replied.
But there are other inconsistencies. Back in November, producers assured ticketholders in Nashville, "We have already successfully presented Immersive Van Gogh in 16 North American cities to date." But in reality, at that point, some of those shows had only just recently opened while others had not yet opened.
And for those who go to the Van Gogh website to find tickets, they'll see no mention of the delays, but rather that the show has been "extended by popular demand."
But ticketholders, like the Spinks, aren't buying it.
"They’re making up their story as they go," Dana Spinks suggested as his wife, Nanci said, "I feel angry and I feel like I was taken."
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked producer Dvoretsky, "Do you see why people are skeptical?"
"I totally understand why people could be skeptical," she replied.
But Dvoretsky said don't give up on Immersive Van Gogh yet.
And as electronic billboards around Nashville urge folks to get tickets and back at the old theatre, the initial electrical work is finally getting started. She said she wants nothing more than to see the exhibit finally open on March 24.
"Please have a (sic) trust and have a (sic) faith and come and see it because after you do that, you’re going to forgive us," Dvoretsky said.
A spokesperson for Dvoretsky later got back to NewsChannel 5 to explain the delays. He blamed a lot of it on COVID and said that now that work has started, they're making good progress. Keep in mind though, the site is going to need additional permits and pass several inspections before the city is going to allow it to open.
So, while producers are hopeful they'll open next month, there are no guarantees right now.
And if you have friends in other cities who have seen a Van Gogh show with no problems and wondered why then there are so many delays in Nashville, here's the thing.
This company has put on the show in a number of cities already including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But, keep in mind, there are several other companies doing similar Van Gogh shows right now. So what someone may have seen in another city may not be the show coming here.