New York's Museum of Ice Cream a cool idea

Visitors play at the Museum of Ice Cream's main attraction - a room with a swimming pool full of rainbow "sprinkles".
Visitors play at the Museum of Ice Cream's main attraction - a room with a swimming pool full of rainbow "sprinkles".PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK • When Maryellis Bunn was a child, she dreamt of jumping into a swimming pool full of sprinkles. So, here we are.

Last Friday, the 24-year-old Manhattanite threw open the doors to a spectacle worthy of the finest Instagram filter: a Museum of Ice Cream.

The project, which arrives just as New Yorkers are recovering from a heat wave, will run until Aug 31 in the shadow of the Whitney Museum of American Art in a strip of empty retail spaces in the meatpacking district.

Apparently, many other New Yorkers also share her dream: The 30,000 tickets sold out in five days.

Bunn, who is a creative strategist with clients that include Facebook and Instagram, and Manish Vora - her boyfriend and a museum co- creator - understand their target audience: millennials who need to prove to the rest of social media that they were out somewhere doing something really fun.

The Museum of Ice Cream promises to tap into child-like memories of summer days and ice-cream cones. It combines those dreams with adult spending power: In the gift shop, premium sprinkles are sold for US$18 (S$24), next to US$33 cone-shaped iPhone cases.

Vora and Bunn call this museum a "passion project", but the elements of corporate marketing here are obvious - more than 30 partners or sponsors are affiliated with the museum, including chocolate brand Dove, which provides samples, and Fox, which sponsored a room.

In one room dedicated to ice- cream cones, the wall is covered in vague, uncredited trivia - "Cones damaged during production are further ground down into animal feed" - and guests can suck on a helium- filled balloon made of heated sugar.

Next door, in an ice-cream scoop room, guests can take a scoop of vegetable shortening laced with sugar and deposit it in a huge bowl to help make "The World's Largest Ice Cream Sundae".

The experience is oddly satisfying. But, I asked, how can it be an ice-cream sundae if all we are doing is spooning lard into a bowl?

"You know social media," Eyan Edwards, who was minding the scoops, replied. "It's all about looks."

There is a chocolate room, which has an almost sickly sweet smell of syrup. There is a chocolate bean bag in the middle of the room, where Bunn flops and beckons guests to look at the swirling liquid chocolate projections on the wall.

In one corner, a chocolate fountain spews brown fluid onto a white counter - unappetising, to say the least.

After bypassing the odd little fountain, guests are treated to the museum's main attraction: a room with a swimming pool full of rainbow "sprinkles" - tiny bits of hard plastic that embed themselves between your toes for hours after the experience is over.

Still, it is fun and there are only a few rules: Take off your shoes, make a wish and do not dive.

At the sight of shoeless people milling around in a pool of plastic, I had to ask: Isn't this some sort of health hazard?

"We have replacement sprinkles, so don't you worry," answered Vora, who was busying himself by sweeping up sprinkles from the floor with a broom and dust bin.

Beyond the pool is a room created by Irwin Adam Eydelnant, who used his doctorate in biomedical engineering to start the Future Food Studio, based in Toronto.

"This is an art installation meets an ice-cream shop meets a taste experiment," Eydelnant said of the final exhibit he developed: "miracle berry" candies that transform a lemon slice placed on top of a dollop of soft-serve vanilla ice cream into a sweet taste instead of sour.

Finally, it was an experience that evokes the Willy Wonka flair the museum creators sought.

But that sugar bubble is popped in the nearby gift shop, where US$110 gold ice-cream necklaces are on sale next to a giant seesaw that looks like an ice-cream scoop - sponsored by Tinder.

Of course.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'New York's Museum of Ice Cream a cool idea'. Print Edition | Subscribe