The space that housed the first ever two-night DarkMatter event last weekend was desolate during the day, but by 10 p.m. it had been transformed into a UV-fluorescent world, crawling with Orlando residents from all corners who sought one shared purpose: to express themselves.
The two nights of multi-platform artistic expression featured five artist showcases, live painting by four of those artists, body-painting stations and music by local DJs spinning originally produced tracks — in addition to four hours of dancing among visitors.
"I think Orlando needs more opportunities like this because there are many ways to express oneself," said one of the event coordinators Marie Trejos. "Throughout the night, there could be like three or four different forms of expression going on. You need options to find yourself."
The event was primarily organized by Orlando DJ Alex Armstrong, the founder of a production company called DirtySouth Enterprises. When Armstrong was given creative control over the space, which is now emerging on the scene as Gallery 2, he said he wanted to create an atmosphere for people of all types to showcase their talent.
"For a lot of the artists, this is their first debut," he said. "It provides them [with] a way to share their art, and that's what they love to do."
Aside from the visual art showcased at DarkMatter, the entire event was produced by local talent and described to be a grassroots effort, headlining DJ Frank Asaurus said.
"In an event like this, you see underground producers playing their own music in an event that was put on completely independent of the powers that be in the Orlando music scene," said Asaurus, a UCF graduate in political science who is returning this summer to pursue a second degree in computer science.
Asaurus played a two-hour, back-to-back set with DJ Zaylien on the night of May 30, during which he debuted a collaborative track that the duo had just finished hours before.
"Not only are we putting on the event ourselves, but we're also playing music that we have produced ourselves," he said.
Asaurus, who also acted as the stage director and sound engineer for the event, said the result was an original experience with an underground feel.
"It's more of a grassroots movement and less corporate," he said. "If you were to go to some of these more commercial venues, you'd be hearing the same music, the top forty music — always playing the same songs."
Yet despite the emphasis on local and emerging talent, the DarkMatter event featured professional-grade production in lighting and sound.
Mike Canavan, the owner of the gallery, is also the head of a production company called Canavan Scenic & Light, and has been a professional artist for 40 years.
Canavan said he was able to provide quality resources due to his past experience with Fortune 500 companies and the rock 'n' roll industry.
"We are in the position where we can have nice events in the shop, both with lighting, sound, music and art, so what's not to love?," he said. "What we're really doing is pushing the artists individually so they're getting to a wider audience."
Jordan Rickman, an Orlando resident who attended the event, said each of the elements worked together to complement each other and creat a setting of accessible exposure for artists.
"I think it's really awesome because it's a great way to get people to come in and look at different artists, especially because it's a hybrid event with music and body painting," said Rickman, a Rollins graduate working as a software developer. "It goes beyond just looking at some art, which can be very sterile and not as engaging of a night. So I think it's a great way to get people our age involved in art."
And while the integration of the mediums is unique for a local production, it becomes even more unique given the level of production in the context of the event, Asaurus said.
"To have this sort of production level for something that's underground really says a lot," he said. "After seeing what we have going on tonight, people will want to come back."
Canavan said the team of expression enthusiasts can look forward to planning similar events in the near future, depending on the feedback received from their first showcase.
"If you like your music and you're down to showcase your art, then come by because this is the place where you can showcase your art, your music, your dance moves – whatever it is, just come by," Trejos said.
Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Coordinator for the Central Florida Future.