Review: Local Museum Overflows With Immersive Art Experiences

By Alyson Wong

What do you call a herd or group of wild bunnies?

Embarking on the public indoor tour, “Into the Rabbit Hole,” one of two in-person exploratory immersive art experiences offered at the Gregangelo Museum, reveals the peculiarly delightful answer you didn’t know you needed – a fluffle. 

A fluffle is what tour groups (two to six participants) are invited to become as they are guided into the rabbit hole of the Gregangelo Museum for an hour-long one-of-a-kind phantasmagorical art experience that has the potential to crack your mind, senses and maybe even heart wide open. 

Tour guide and facilitator Nick Brentley greets tour guests at the entrance of the Gregangelo Museum at the start of the museum’s private indoor tour activation, “Into the Rabbit Hole.” The unique museum is within a home in the St. Francis Woods neighborhood. Photos by Alyson Wong.

Just beyond fountain roundabouts and tucked away on a quiet unassuming residential street in the Balboa Terrace neighborhood, next to St. Francis Woods, you’ll find the Mediterranean-styled private residence of Gregangelo Herrera. A corkscrew Dali-esque grandfather clock peeking out of shrubbery and a rounded swiveling gate at the sidewalk are the only distinguishing signs that give away the home’s curiosities within.

Herrera, a Lebanese and Mexican artist,  grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown  and was always drawn to the arts. While living in the home that organically morphed into the site for the Gregangelo Museum today, he attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School when it was still an all-boys school after not getting into his top pick, Lick-Wilmerding. 

Gregangelo Herrera (center) spontaneously picks up a djembe hand drum inviting California College of the Arts students to participate in a musical jam experience inside the Scentsorium Emporium room.

Making the best of his path and grateful for the memorable instruction of St. Ignatius artist teacher Katie Wolf, who is still a current faculty member, Herrera followed his creative instincts by participating in arts activities at the Sunset District school. He also developed a whirling dervish act with the San Francisco dance company, Aswan Dancers. 

Herrera went on to pursue his own individual major at the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC), now known as the California College of the Arts (CCA), and expanded his horizons thereafter by traveling the world and performing. Although he has studied and worked in many mediums, his work is rooted in performance art.

So, what exactly is the Gregangelo Museum? Open Thursday through Saturdays, the home is a living work of art where science and art collide, and the mysteries of the ancient world and universe are woven together into a kaleidoscopic sensorial portal. 

Guests are guided through rooms themed and filled with anything and everything under the sun – fabrics, mosaics, murals, mystical installations, sculptures, North African and Middle Eastern decor, and just about anything that can be imagined. 

Visiting students from a California College of the Arts glass class walk through The Midnight Hall, a corridor in the museum inspired by “secret passages of tombs leading to sacred treasures.”

Forget the conventional norms of white-walled art museums, galleries and all preconceptions about yourself and the world upon entering the residential home turned cutting edge living museum. 

“You’re in the art and the art is extracting your story,” Herrera said. 

Exploratory contemplation, innovation, connection and fun abound in this one-of-a-kind experience that truly must be experienced to be appreciated.

Herrera also makes it clear that, “firstly, this is not a performance venue. This is my home and it accidentally started taking on a life of its own.” 

Four decades ago, he began adorning each room with unique finds from his world travels and art pieces both commissioned and home fashioned. Through word of mouth, friends, family, artists, architects and designers were interested to see his home for inspiration and he allowed a limited number of people to come by informally. Herrera adds one caveat, “I always allow artists to come.” 

In addition to inviting students to intern and tour the space, Herrera champions the arts by hosting a weekly Thursday event, “Let’s Do Lunch,” which welcomes artists from all over the world to break bread together and cross cultures and ideas over a delicious homemade spread. 

Herrera speaks to guests and team members as they fill their plates in the Gregangelo kitchen before gathering with 10-15 others for Thursday’s “Let’s Do Lunch” event.

“It wasn’t until right after the pandemic that it was out of necessity (to open the museum formally), and we had to because arts and culture, and our corporate and events business was gone,” Herrera said. 

Herrera said he feels like “an endangered species right now” and “has been lucky to have had enough energy to keep finding new ways (to move forward), because it’s never easy sailing.” 

Though some art and performance venues have begun to slowly open their doors and continue work, not all made it through the last three years, especially when public performance gatherings were the first commodity to go.

Outside of the museum itself however, the home is also a buzzing artists’ lab, studio, idea incubator, costume workshop and headquarters of the entertainment company, Velocity Arts and Entertainment, helmed by creative director Marcelo Defreitas and Herrera, who serves as artistic director. The two joined forces five years ago after working on an event for La Luz Center, a non-profit that directly works with the Latino community in Sonoma. 

As a play on the word, “scent,” glass perfume jars of various sizes and shapes labeled “Magnifiscents,” “Bio-luminescents,” “Pre-pubescents” and more are filled with colorful objects and liquids at the Scentsorium Emporium installation inside the museum.

Defying any prescription for how to do things, the company’s tagline on its website is “think outside the circle.”  

Thousands of events later, and after working with numerous artists and performers to put on state-of-the-art entertainment experiences, they continue to successfully do just that. 

The core team of artists and creatives who come to work at Herrera’s home create immersive entertainment experiences for non-profits, large venues, private events and some “weddings for weirdos,” as Herrera calls them, if the project aligns. 

Left to right: Angelica Irreno, Aaron Duffy, Marcelo Defreitas, and Gregangelo Herrera work together on their upcoming art experience for the California Academy of Sciences.

What sets the team apart from Cirque du Soleil or other performance art experiences is that they include interactive, immersive and experiential elements to bring stories to life that provoke contemplation and connection. The current project they are working on is an experiential performance based on endangered species commissioned by a long-term client, the California Academy of Sciences.

The high-quality craft and joy that flow from the creative team keeping Velocity Arts projects and the museum running is palpable. 

The team includes Darkhijav Damla, a Mongolian professional dancer who has been working with Velocity Arts for the past 22 years as a wardrobe designer. Marina Polakoff from Russia and designer Monica Paz Soldan join her in the colorful costume-filled workshop downstairs. Social Media Manager Angelica Irreno is an artist sponsored from Colombia who handles the team’s social media and marketing efforts, and Aaron Duffy manages artists and production alongside Nick Brentley who guides guests on museum tours. Ian Fratar, an artist, juggler and bubble person from Oakland has also built installations and worked with the team for many years. 

Costume designer, Marina Polakoff, sews a winged harness by hand in the Gregangelo workshop.

Herrera has actively championed the arts and continues to challenge the notion that art is not essential. He was recently awarded a certificate of honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognizing his positive contributions to the cultivation of the arts and cultural landscape of the City. To continue his efforts, he is also diligently working on a city proposal to reinvigorate the hospitality industry (including hotels, convention centers, restaurants and installation spaces) by targeting areas within San Francisco that have been hard hit by the pandemic.

With both feet firmly on the ground and a bold gaze to the sky, Gregangelo has cultivated a space that brings people together, inspires joy and expands peoples’ ideas of what’s possible. His hope is that the living system he has helped nurture will encourage others to “be in the present moment, engage, be reflective and get to know each other better.” He calls his home a “connectatorium,” and what could be more important today?

Learn more at

A peek into the lush and art-filled private outdoor tour experience, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” also available at the Gregangelo Museum.

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