IMMERSE 2018, held on Oct. 19 and 20, was an event unlike any other here in Downtown Orlando. From the lights and music to the intricate performances and immersive photo experiences, this night of culture and celebration of Orlando’s artistic community was not only a night to remember but a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.
IMMERSE was founded by the Creative City Project, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help celebrate Orlando’s artistic community. The event is the brainchild of Cole NeSmith, founder and executive director of the Creative City Project. He describes the IMMERSE event as one that has to be “experienced,” not just “observed.”
The 2017 IMMERSE event brought nearly 1,000 performers to the streets and public spaces of Downtown Orlando for more than 25,000 patrons. The 2018 event was expanded over the course of two days and offered new exhibits and additions to last year’s event.
The event takes place annually in Downtown Orlando, right on Orange Avenue, and this year’s event, in particular, featured show-stopping elements like the Immersive Photo Experience and The Worlds of Corkcicle. This was a space sponsored by Corkcicle, a drinkware and cooler company based in Orlando, and featured interactive, artistic photo exhibits with a series of different lighting, color, and texture effects for guests to connect with. These exhibits ranged from a room full of lush plant life to a large yellow space brimming with bubbles and even a long interactive hallway of rainbow umbrellas. Each of these individual spaces provided new and unique photo opportunities for patrons to make themselves feel as if they were part of the artwork around them, making the experience all the more memorable. This was personally my favorite section of the event, as it was so special to see the different ways that various photographers played with the space for photographs and watching the awe on the faces of the young kids as they entered these spaces for the first time.
Other highlights of the event included a large space sponsored by Orlando Health called The Art of Athleticism, where guests were able to use Xbox systems to interact with the space and “paint” using their movements on the screen. Each person standing in front of the screen was assigned a different color that they could use to “draw” with, leaving plenty of room for kids to carry out their wildest fantasies of coloring all over the walls.
A definite fan favorite of the event was The Giant Ball Pit which, as the name implies, was a giant pit full of plastic balls that could be dived into from the wooden platform above. The pit was deep enough where there was plenty of space to wage ball pit wars, dive deep under the rest of the crowd, and generally take a break and relax in a unique space. Other adults in the pit sought the perfect Instagram photo reliving their wildest childhood dreams.
The event hosted a variety of different artistic collaborations and performances by Cirque du Soleil, Valencia College, Orlando Philharmonic, Orlando Ballet, and the Central Florida Community Arts Orchestra. Unique events like the Longest Fashion Runway Show, Opera de Sol, and Addiction BMX Bikes were also featured in the lineup. Artists came from all sorts of backgrounds, including classical to hip-hop music, murals, dance and acrobatics. Participants and guests came from Central Florida and beyond to participate in the event and showcase their work to the public, and they most certainly did not disappoint. There were so many unique pieces all over the event, and watching artists hone their craft while also being able to ask questions and talk to them about their work was a worthwhile experience. More than 1,000 artists and performers attended the event to showcase their work and meet their public admirers. It is not very often that you get to meet the person who made the art that you admire; IMMERSE 2018 was an exception.