While we here at The Culture Curators have gotten quite close to the #NeonDreams crew and are part of the family, even we are a bit in the dark about what the exhibition has in store. But there is a glow about it, and it’s getting brighter. While ‘Neon Dreams’ is the brainchild of EJ Nieves and Teddy Sykes. Several people from the community have come together to make it more than just an upcoming exhibition.
It feels like the start of a new movement. A collective of brilliant, talented, and uncommonly ambitious folks who have come together for something special. Neon Dreams is more than just a social media campaign, and it’s more than an art show. It’s a mindset, it’s a crew at its heart, at it’s whole a community of remarkable people who have put their time and effort into something extraordinary.
As we prepare for the official ‘Neon Dreams’ exhibition on December 6th, we take a deeper dive into the movement. We are here with an exclusive look at the beginning of the campaign while taking a look at the ‘Neon House,’ the ‘Neon Truck,’ and how everything has come together.
This is more than the tale of an art exhibition in the making. This is the documentation of an art movement on the rise. Stay tuned; this is just the beginning.
It Was All A Dream…
Being embedded with the #NeonDreams Team, as they call themselves, has been something to see. We’ve witnessed this thing start as a rather straightforward art showcase. Before transforming into a movement that the entire community has gotten behind. But where did it start? We spoke with the duo about the origin story of Neon Dreams and how it all began. Neon Dreams kicked off at a local downtown staple, The Keep, where one conversation and a few drinks provided the catalyst for all of this.
The Start Of Something Bright!
Artist Teddy Sykes stated, “The short answer is at The Keep Downtown, October 29th.” The exhibition came to fruition as the two artists were having a drink and bouncing ideas off one another. Teddy added, “We had several ideas for themes but eventually landed on the name Neon Dreams. Right then and there, we came up with a plan, and the rest is history.”
EJ explained that the idea came after the frustration of wanting to do an exhibition in Ocala through a more formal setting via local galleries. After being notified that gallery spaces around town are booked up until 2021, the fellas decided to take an unconventional to showcase their art.
Shortly after revealing the exhibition, the duo announced that #NeonDreams would be held at Infinite Ale Works. The local brewery has become a staple in downtown Ocala and offers ample space, as well as a unique ambiance. Teddy opened up about how the venue came to be. He stated: “I’ve been friends with Sam, the manager at Infinite, for a while now, and the conversation about using his space as a venue was actually very short. It was pretty much, “Hey Sam, can we host an art show here?” and within a second, he said yes.”
Teddy also spoke about the venue itself, explaining why the building is perfect for their concept. He added, “The back rooms at Infinite have been used for all sorts of events in the past, so they are no stranger to letting people come in and transform the bar. There’s plenty of room to accommodate a large crowd, plenty of wall space to hang our artwork, and of course, there’s plenty of beer.” From there, the campaign grew legs, grew members, and a city-wide take over was on the horizon.
The Neon Dream Team!
Upon lining up the show, solidifying the venue and a date, EJ and Teddy kicked off a social media guerilla marketing campaign to get the ball rolling. It all started with two neon hoodies that the artists created in order to push awareness for the show.
They then linked up with a team of like-minded, creative individuals from the local community to take things to the next level. They called upon the musical genius of Just Joel, who will supply the vibe and soundtrack for the exhibition, as well as the squad here at The Culture Curators to help bring their story to life. The talented videographer Tommy Cuevas joined the team, and the crew was starting building the hype via a social media marketing campaign like the city has never seen before. Before anyone knew it, everyone seemed to have a ‘Neon Dreams’ tee, and the word was spreading!
Teddy and EJ opened up about the ‘Neon Dream Team’ and their roles. Teddy said, “We truly do have what I’d call a Dream Team. EJ and I are leading everything art-related. We have Just Joel, who is a monster of a musician. His expertise is definitely going to take this show to the next level. At our side, since day one, we’ve had Jesse James and Dave Miller of The Culture Curators. They’ve documented our progress and are the masterminds behind telling our story. We also have Tommy Cuevas doing the magic behind the video camera. We’re a dynamic group.”
Dreams & Reality!
EJ added, “the Neon Dream team is a team of 7 heavy-hitting individuals that produce masterful content on all cylinders. In just a matter of a few weeks, we were able to create a guerrilla marketing campaign the blanketed an entire city and captivated the hearts and minds of a city ready to embrace an art and marketing renaissance.” He went on to say, “Each person plays a unique role and adds an exuberant amount of value to the tribe.” He even opened up about the group’s motto, adding, “Everybody Eats,” it’s a cornerstone to how this is only the beginning.”
With the team in place, attention being harvested, and the hype spreading like wildfire, #NeonDreams was turning into something special. The city was starting to take notice.
The Glow Grows!
The next part of the #NeonDreams puzzle was the ‘Neon House’. The ‘Neon House’ is located in the historic district of downtown Ocala. The stunning home also dubbed ‘The Vic’ and also known as the ‘Art House’ is a beautiful Victorian-inspired home owned by Lisa Midgett.
As a big supporter of the arts community and a fan of modern movements, Lisa graciously offered the structure for the Neon Dream Team as a hub for the project.
Teddy Sykes spoke about the home and how it has come to life. He said, “The Midgett Foundation is a huge supporter of local arts, and we are extremely appreciative to have them on our team. We have plans to use the house as a meeting area and art studio to prepare for the show.”
However, that’s not the only plan for the house. The crew has recruited a handful of local artists to transform the interior of the house with several murals. Each artist will have the option to choose their own room. As well as the opportunity to change the spaces into individual exhibitions of their exceptional talents. So far, they have six artists involved in the project, but more details will be coming about future plans for the home soon.
Expanding The Glow!
While the ‘Neon House’ is the hub of activity for the team, they soon received a more significant, mobile way of spreading their message; the ‘Neon Truck.’ The ‘Neon Truck’ is a roaming support vehicle that was donated to the Neon Dream Team by Jay Cowart. This rolling canvas has been tagged with a ‘Neon Dream’ theme, offering something bold and eye-catching, something certainly Instagram worthy.
The truck serves as an attention-grabbing billboard that has been decorated with neon-themed art. The vehicle was on full display at ‘Light Up Ocala,’ further building the hype and grabbing attention from the thousands of folks in attendance. The truck was even draped with neon lights, providing a bigger buzz as the glow got brighter and brighter
The community was starting to get behind the movement, and the glow continues to grow!
The Community Glow!
The #NeonDreams movement took over the city, and it continues to evolve and grow into something unbelievable. The fellas spoke about the bold, bright colors of the campaign. Teddy said, “We’re very bold in what we do, so the colors are a perfect fit. EJ and I started off wearing neon hoodies to advertise for the show and to gain that initial attention.” He also spoke about the growth of the campaign, adding, “We never knew it was going to take off as big as it did with close to a hundred people wanting to wear neon shirts to support us. It grew like wildfire almost out of nowhere.”
Everyone wanted Neon Dreams shirts, and they can be seen throughout downtown by friends and fans of the crew. EJ spoke about the outpouring of community support, adding, “The movement has really been one of full Community involvement. Companies and organizations all over town have wanted us to spray paint neon shirts for them as a way to symbolize the ever prevalent desire to grow the arts and culture of Ocala.”
With the community behind them and everyone still wondering what ‘Neon Dreams’ means. The two artists spoke about their idea for ‘Neon Dreams.’
What Is Your Neon Dream?
Teddy defined his take on the concept. He said, “A Neon Dream – It’s what you want so badly that everyone else sees it too. Something, like neon lights that you and others just can’t ignore. Mine is a vision of the future for this city.” He continued, “Look at the booming art and music scenes in Miami, LA, Atlanta, etc. I want that for Ocala. I want to be part of the team that made it all come to life. That’s my neon dream.”
Mr. Nieves gave us his definition of #NeonDreams as well. He said, “A neon dream is a dream or desire to intense that it shines vividly like neon lights. A neon dream is something that is undeniable, bright and demands attention. My Neon Dream for Ocala is to see this city became a destination for arts and entertainment. A place where people from all over Florida and beyond can visit to be immersed in rich arts and culture.”
This team has something big in store for everyone, and the future is certainly looking bright. What started as just a dream will all become a reality on December 6th.
Neon Dreams: The Show
Though much of #NeonDreams and what we can expect is being kept a secret. The crew has done a fantastic job of building the hype. While we’ve seen some of the art pop up on social media already, we spoke with the team to get a little more insight into what to expect. Both are being reserved in terms of details.
However, Mr. Sykes did state that “Guests can expect the atmosphere of the event to be very upbeat and high energy. Just Joel will be in the building providing live music. La Cuisine will provide light food options.” He went on to add, “The Infinite crew will be, of course, slinging drinks all night from behind the bar.” He did say, “Things guests should know: If you have any medical conditions affected by theatrical lighting, please proceed with caution upon entering the event.”
Keeping The Dreams A Secret!
EJ stated: “Much of the show is secretive. We will say that the show itself has elements that react amazingly to black lights. The color palette consists primarily of neon colors and metallic spray paints.”
So, in short, you can expect a colorful, glowing adventure in art. Neon Dreams is set to be an immersive experience, a unique journey that will consist of stimulation for your eyes and ears, offering something that the city’s art scene hasn’t seen before.
While the event takes place on December 6th, this is just the beginning, not only for #NeonDreams, but for the Neon Dream Team as well. The crew also has plans to host an event at Hop Stop in the Paddock Mall in the weeks following their exhibition. There will also be more details coming in regards to the ‘Neon House,’ so stay tuned.
#NeonDreams takes place on December 6th from 6 pm to 10 pm at Infinite Ale Works. The event will be host to some great art, some fantastic vibes, and exceptional food.
The Culture Curators will be on hand, and we’ve got something special up our sleeves for attendees as well; however, you will have to show up to see it.
Guests are being told to wear Neon colors or UV reflective clothing, as they can become part of the exhibition themselves. In the meantime, keep it locked with The Culture Curators for all of your ‘Neon Dreams’ updates.
You can also follow along with the hashtags #NeonDreams #WhoaCala and #GrowCala. For all the best in Ocala, be sure to check out #OurOcala while you’re at it. Pull up December 6th and glow with us!
Photos via Dave Miller for The Culture Curators