The Gorilla Blog

Prop Sculpting

For those who enjoy seeing “behind the scene” glimpses, here’s a sneak preview of how we create some of our props and themed sculptures.

We were very fortunate to have contributions from two of Atlanta’s top prop makers, Matt Ward and Jennifer “Ferf” Smither. Prop making is a very specialized art form and it is often difficult to find talent to create the sculptures we utilize in our themed environments. Matt and Ferf had the perfect mix of professionalism and creativity to pull it off.

Matt Ward Sculpts a tree for Imagination Atmospheres.

Master prop maker, Matt Ward, sculpts a tree for Imagination Atmospheres.

Matt sculpted two full-sized trees in foam using traditional foam sculpting tools such as chain saws, hot knives and raspers. Not the easiest job to do in the blistering Atlanta summer sun. Ferf created stone columns and walls in foam using wire brushes, sand paper and hot knives.

Ferf Sculpts a tree for Imagination Atmospheres.

Master prop maker, Ferf, sculpts a tree for Imagination Atmospheres.

Both artists did a superb job as you might imagine and we’ll be posting the finished pieces here soon. A big thank you from Imagination Atmospheres for their tireless work and a shout out to Ted Morrow at All About Props for the use of sculpting space.


Building A Main Street Theme

Building a Main Street ThemeWe are currently in the workshop, deep into a project build for the children’s ministry of Goodlettsville Pentecostal Church in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. This project incorporates a Welcome and Sign-in Area, a Nursery Lobby and Nursery, a long Hallway leading to children’s classrooms and a large Children’s Worship Room. Each area has a unique theme ranging from a Train Station to a City Park to a Downtown Main Street village.

One of the challenges in theming large kids’ spaces is designing unique themed areas that bring a “WOW Factor” to smaller areas, yet still work in harmony with the overall theme design. If we design a kids’ City Park in the same space as a City Garage, both themes need to feel like they belong to the same themed environment. This is accomplished by using sculpture, architecture, murals and artwork of similar styles, colors and design. We wouldn’t want to put a cartoon Train Station in a realistic Main Street environment or paint realistic animal murals for a cartoon zoo.

This is one of our favorite types of projects. It gives us an opportunity to create 3-D environments, cartoon murals, lots of fun Main Street shops and even a couple of large sculpted trees for the City Park theme. It’s one of those themes that has it all and that’s always a fun time for artists. We’ll be sure to post photos of the completed project here and on our Facebook Page, so come back for the big reveal!

Downtown Main Street Theme

Mississippi Boulevard Baptist Church, Memphis, TN

This abstract and cartoon main street mural features some specific Memphis icons such as BBQ and the City Zoo. While all of the walls areas are completely covered with murals, the lack of 3-D sculptures keeps the space open and serves as a colorful and creative passageway to the children’s classrooms. Muraled wood panels add a touch of 3-D for maximum visual effect and “wow factor.” A themed environment that provides saturation of art, yet simple design for a creative and open space. This environment is very flexible and can work for almost any space from kids church hallways to daycare and schools and with design alterations it can work with practically any age group.

Airbrushed, hand-painted murals and wood cutouts.

This custom-designed theme covers two sides of a wide hallway and included theming of existing sign-in desk.

$20K – $30K

Church Unleashed

We had a great team of artists come along with us to Church Unleashed in Commack, New York to build their “Ultra Kids” themed environment. Brent Hooper managed the onsite project and all installations, Chattanooga-based mural artist, Seven, created the spray paint murals in the classrooms and hallway and artist Anier Fernandez painted the onsite silhouette murals, signs and 3-D props. 3-D sculptures and onsite airbrushed murals were created by Rick Baldwin.

Church Unleashed Lead Pastor, Todd Bishop and his staff welcomed us into their new space on Long Island, New York for six days. During this period, Imagination Atmospheres themed several areas for the “Ultra Kids” – a sign-in area with a 3-D roller coaster cart, a worship room with 360° murals depicting a fair and arcade, a Noah’s Ark classroom and hallway, an Eve’s garden classroom and hallway, a Moses classroom and hallway and a hallway mural featuring “God’s Great Galaxy.”

Despite a a long cramped van ride to New York and a wind storm which knocked out our power for over 24 hours, the IA team rose to the occasion and in the end created a wonderful and creative environment for the kids at Church Unleashed. A big thanks to Pastors Todd and Mary Bishop for inviting us up and trusting us with their theming project.

CenterPoint Church Before and After

We’re frequently asked if we can post “Before and After” photos of the spaces we transform. So much so that we will soon start a new gallery specifically made up of “Before and After” photos. In the meantime, here’s one of a hallway we did for a CenterPoint Church’s children’s church area in Concord, New Hampshire:

church theme | before and after 01


Rochester, Indiana Visit

Rochester Indiana

Rochester Indiana Downtown. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

We had a perfect visit to Rochester, Indiana this past weekend to install a theme. While there, we had a great time being tourists, taking photos of the beautiful houses and of the historic downtown area. A street fair was scheduled for the weekend we were there which added to the fun. We enjoyed coffee at the coffee shop and dined on Mexican food at a very uniquely themed restaurant. It seems like almost every time we visit a new city, I imagine what it would be like to move there. I always look for a potential location for an Imagination Atmospheres workshop. Rochester had several ready to move in locations downtown. One in particular was a former tire garage. I think it would be the perfect location if we ever decide to move to Indiana although I’m not sure I could talk the rest of the staff into packing up and making the change. We met some great people in Rochester and look forward to returning. Maybe during another downtown street fair?

Q:21 with Suzanne Curtis Campbell

Suzanne Curtis Campbell is a Tennessee native now in her first year at UCLA’s MFA program in Screenwriting. Her previous lives include various stints as, in no particular order: A theatre actor, country music DJ, Playwright, magazine writer, late night hotel auditor, non-profit staff, theatre director, theatre company Artistic Director, wife and mother to two “hairy children.” Peers often comment on how great she is at being short.

Suzanne Curtis CampbellIA: What books currently on your bookshelf get your highest rating?
SCC: A practical book on writing scripts — The Dramatic Writer’s Companion by Will Dunne. Nerd heaven.

IA: What makes you laugh the most?
SCC: Hm. I laugh a lot. Life is really funny to me. Surprises make me laugh. I’m also a sucker for one liners and sarcasm. I can find something laughable about most anything. This is not always a strength.

IA: What place have you been that has inspired you the most?
SCC: I felt really inspired in Europe, in countries much older than America, where the continuum of the human experience is more “in your face.” It’s impossible to turn around in Europe without being reminded of the past, which puts me in a contemplative mood. I guess I feel inspired when I’m contemplating? Weird.

IA: Who are your heroes?
SCC: People who persist. I’m a “hero-ho.” I have a lot of heroes. These days, it’s writers and artists– Chayefsky, Kubrick, Lumet, those 70s chestnuts.

IA: What’s your favorite technique for battling creative block?
SCC: Routine. There’s a quote attributed to Picasso, but others have expressed similar sentiments: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” To finish a project, I have to work even when I don’t feel like it. It’s part of having a practice rather than a hobby.

IA: Who is the most famous person you have seen out in public?
SCC: I saw Jay Leno in traffic once.

IA: How would you heckle someone in Shakespearean language?
SCC: For a solid Shakespearean sounding insult, use lots of “thees” and “thous.” Toss out the words “coxcomb” and “cuckold.” Oh, and try to keep it to ten iambic syllables.

IA: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
SCC: Patience solves most problems.

IA: Have you always kept a diary?
SCC: Yes, since about the age of 9. I’ve always been a compulsive writer. But now we all have a shared diary, and it’s called Facebook.

IA: Do you prefer working alone or in collaboration?
SCC: Alone, but I’m learning how to fake a good attitude about collaborating.

IA: What is your best advice to a beginning writer?
SCC: Write. I used to hate it when people told me that, but it’s true. Talking about writing isn’t writing. Only writing is writing, and it’s the best way to learn it. If you put words on paper, you’ll have a mechanism for feedback. It’s easy to think about writing. It’s tougher to put the time into it and risk failure.

IA: Which is funnier: Jello® or pudding?
SCC: I’m told words with the “p” sound are funny. I’ll have to go with pudding. Pickle pudding would be hilarious. To a toddler. Yell it repeatedly to a toddler. You’ll bring the house down.

IA: What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
SCC: I’m danger-avoidant. My encounters with danger are always involuntary. I was held up at gun point once. That was dangerous. If I had it to do over? I wouldn’t.

IA: What song would sound much better with a little banjo added to it?
SCC: What song WOULDN’T sound better with a little banjo added to it? You, sir, are a man of vision for asking the question. I’d start with “Head Over Heels” by the Go-Gos.

IA: If you were inventing a name for a soap opera character what would it be?
SCC: Something that sounds like a man with a mustache. I’m thinking night-time soap. Rex? Maybe a city name. Something that takes itself really seriously. Rex London. That’s a character with a mustache and an agenda.

IA: Do you believe creativity is a spiritual function?
SCC: I believe creativity is a way for humans to understand existence. For some, it feels spiritual. For others, it feels analytical. For me, it is both. But I’ve had the impulse all my life. No one ever told me to create. I’ve always felt obsessed with it.

IA: Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
SCC: Alive. Healthy. Working in my field with no day job. Making money as a writer. I’m keeping it real and doing the one day at a time thing. Keeping that mindset helps maintain the level of patience required to endure.

IA: What is the best flavor of lip gloss?
SCC: Vanilla. Haters can suck it. I’ll also go for a good berry option. But I prefer the more subtle flavors. A strong lip gloss can haunt the nostrils worse than Vick’s Vap-O-Rub®.

IA: Who is your favorite character in literature?
SCC: I have many. Charles Marlow from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness comest to mind. He goes through a great ordeal but spends a lot of time reflecting. It’s technically not a poem but reads like one to me.

IA: What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
SCC: Crow. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong about something.

IA: If you were casting a live version of “Gumby and Pokey” what actors would you put in the lead?
SCC: It would star Schwarzenegger and DeVito. The title: Twins II.