Art is sometimes more than a simple visual experience.
Sometimes it is immersive: it uses smell, sound and enhanced visual effects to take you to another world.
In the case of Sugar High, it is a world where human beings survive on instant gratification, and sugar is an essential element of life.
Bright colors and the smell of butterscotch immediately greet visitors inside the PJ’s building at Washington and Maple, which has been transformed into the Sugar High world with the help of myriad artists.
“Immersive art is different (from regular art) in that the entire space becomes the art, not just an object on a wall or on a pedestal,” said Romy Owens, one of the leaders of the project.
Sugar High began with an idea about a year ago for an immersive art project in Enid. A few months earlier, in February 2021, Owens reached out to local artists, who together brainstormed about the possibilities.
The final concept centered around the idea of a colorful world where everything was made of sugar.
“Anyone paying attention can see kids are struggling, families are struggling, it’s been a real hard couple of years,” Owens said. “It’s not even about sides. This was hard for everybody.
“It’s real easy for me and the other team members … to kind of recognize, like, we need some real healing. We need some things that do bring people together so we can have fun together and remember we’re all doing the best we can.”
During the fundraising process, Owens and project organizers were able to secure thousands of dollars in grant funding and donations. Grants included one from Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, for $5,000; one from Visit Enid, for $1,500; one from Enid Arts Council, for $1,000; one matching from Main Street Enid, for $5,000; one matching from Park Avenue Thrift for $15,000; one from the Bert and Janice Mackie Family Foundation for $5,000 in 2021, and another matching for $5,000 a few weeks ago; and then $5,000 in matching donations from Security National Bank. In total, $96,489 has been donated.
Project organizers also were able to procure a site for free. The building’s owner, Rob Cummins, has given the property to the Sugar High team to use for the project’s duration.
Speaking of free, Sugar High is free to anyone to attend. And, once inside, visitors have the freedom to go through the immersive experience any which way they like.
You might decide to take an extra pass under the Sugar Detection Center (provided by Rock Candy Industries) near the entrance, or you might have a lengthy dance party inside the Disco, an area that is particularly important to the denizens of the Sugar High world, since disco music is their favorite.
“There’s no wrong way. There are a couple of different paths you can take,” said Ben Ezzell, one of the leaders of the Sugar High project. “Depending on how you’re going through, you’d experience it a bit differently, I’d expect.”
When asked if the project has measured up to his expectations, Ezzell said it’s been even better, adding that it’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience being able to create this world for Enid.
“The variety of art in this space is just going to blow you away,” he said.
Sugar High opens at 5 p.m. Friday in conjunction with First Friday. After that, it is open 5-9 p.m. Thursdays, 1-9 p.m. Fridays, 1-9 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays April 2 through May 8 at 220 N. Washington. Members of Gaslight Theatre Teens will create pop-up performance art on Saturdays.
For more information on Sugar High, as well as the list of the many artists involved with the project, go to sugarhighenid.com
Article by: Joe Malan, Enid News & Eagle 3.31.22