Middletown mixed-media art exhibit takes visitors into another dimension

Portōpia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Portōpia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Portōpia features 14 artists to create a one-of-a-kind art experience.

You wouldn’t call Portōpia just an art exhibit the same way you wouldn’t call a Ferrari just an automobile.

It’s more like an immersive art installation that transports visitors through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch to another dimension.

Someone referred to the 5,000-square-foot space in the historic Torchlight Pass in Middletown as “a happy haunted house” because of its many themed rooms and Cassie Dyer, one of the 14 featured artists, said, “I like that.”

Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Portōpia is the brainchild of Mary Huttlinger, executive director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau. She and a core of stakeholders have been working on the exhibit for two years. They were searching for ways to attract visitors to the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is totally unique to Middletown,” she said. “We wanted something that took advantage of the city’s rich art history.”

The exhibit was unveiled last week and is open Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 19. Huttlinger hopes to change the exhibit annually with a new theme and a different team of artists, offering a whole new experience for guests.

Ninety people are allowed in the exhibit at a time and every ticket is time and date stamped. That allows patrons to take their time experiencing the 14 exhibits, including three portal doors for decoding that lead to “unexpected surprises,” Huttlinger said.

Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

During a media event this week, Greta Schneider, 23, and Dyer, 34, two of the artists, talked about the rooms they designed that are across the hall from each other, but worlds apart.

Schneider’s room is called “A Backyard Disco” and features Astroturf on the floor, pink fur and 180 LPs with radio sound effects on the walls. There is a green wall used at the former TVMiddletown studio that allows visitors to dance to the ’70s soundtrack and watch themselves on the monitors.

“I wanted to create a space that I would want to be in and let loose,” said Schneider, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). “Someplace where I could express myself.”

Dyer said for weeks her husband, Christopher, encouraged her to work on her project after their 2-year-old daughter, Scout, went to bed. She wanted to create a room where people were happy and her “imagination popped from there.”

Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The room, painted in fluorescent colors, resembles a dark water ride at an amusement park. She said a spaceship crashed and those inside the room are greeted by numerous Mweeps.

“They are thrilled to meet you,” she said of the room called “Happy Art For The Young At Heart.”

Huttlinger said every artist was given a space, deadline and a budget. The only other stipulation: “It’s got to have the ‘wow factor’ and make people think.”

Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Portopia is a mixed-media, interactive art exhibit located in the Torchlight Pass building on Central Ave. in downtown Middletown. Multiple artist created an multi-sensory experience in the space formerly occupied by TV Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham


HOW TO GO:

WHAT: Portōpia , an immersive art installation

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 19

WHERE: Torchlight Pass, 1131 Central Ave., Suite 200, Middletown.

HOW MUCH: Adults, $21; Students/Military/Veterans/Seniors $16; Youth $14; Children 4 and younger free.

MORE INFORMATION: https://www.portopia.org/