When the city is grey and even the sidewalk looks sad, we seek the warmth of a smile. “What’s behind the door?” My son asks, as he pulls it open and slips inside.
We enter Happy Place into a room of radiant pink that showcases a pair of 7-foot high stiletto thrones made of a million candies! To the left, floor-to-ceiling gumball machines! To the right, a candy-bar serving free samples of mm’s with happy faces! Is this heaven? It’s a portal from the cold outside into a series of larger-than-life-size installations curated to “Capture Your Happy.” It’s brilliant—or as my child corrects me, “It’s Happy,” as he munches on his cup of chocolates.
We pass through to a dark room with ladders that beckon the kid in each of us to climb them. As I come up like a potted-flower into a blooming garden, I see my son appearing, too, as a perfectly beaming marigold. Beautiful.
The Upside Down Room
And then…the Upside Down Room. I tell my son to imagine himself upside down. Then I pick him up, and turn him upside down—method acting—and show him that the bed on the ceiling will be on the floor of the photo, while he will actually appear on the ceiling. He jumps on the pedestal, poses, and says, “I’m ready” (…for my upside down close-up).
There seems to be an acceptance in galleries popping up around the world that cell-phone cameras have changed the way we experience “art.” We no longer directly engage with our eyes and “look.” We may not even be the only or final recipients of that gaze. Rather than accept defeat, there is a movement afoot to incorporate the cell phone into the viewing experience to the extent that we are at once both art observer and artist. Happy Place does just that through immersive installations in which the artist recreates a space to be recreated again by everyone experiencing it. Friends, couples and children excitedly towing their parents experience each installation and frame their own smiles from every angle.
Smile for the Camera
Staff not only direct the flow of patrons, they also know exactly how to frame the perfect keepsake photo. Surrounded by row upon row of rubber duckies, my son and I dunk into a banana-yellow bathtub full of yellow balls. We immediately begin pelting each other. My little cookie monster darts into a room gift-wrapped in chocolate chip cookies. The floor, walls and ceiling are all papered in cookies. At the far end, a giant chocolate-chip cookie stands. He disappears behind it, and then, like a Laugh-In sketch, opens up one of the chocolate chip doors and pops his head through with a delicious beaming smile. Of course, no cookie room would be complete without real cookies displayed in cups arranged on a counter to spell out “LOVE.” We love this!
We weave through a range of installations like the 6-foot-tall X and O letters made out of thousands of tiny mirrors, surrounded by a wall of a thousand red lips. We jump up and down in the world’s largest indoor Confetti Dome. But our finale is the double-rainbow stage from which I hurl my son (recorded in slo-mo on my phone) up, up, as he sails into the sky and then cannonballs into a pot of golden happiness. Laughter abounds as we try to exit while sinking into the pit of yellow balls.
If the aim is to spread “The Happy,” mission accomplished. As we exit along the harbour-front, we are brightened up and #wearehappyplace.
Happiness on Tour runs until January 6, 2016. Don’t miss out! Come on, get happy! Get tix at: www.happyplace.me
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.