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Sensory Overload reaches critical mass

Imagine a night out under the stars filled with music, food, women, cameras, fast cars, strobe lights, incense oils and the finest assortment of rum stateside. No, it was not an afterparty for the Super Bowl or a scene from the film Eyes Wide Shut. It was the third annual Sensory Overload festival, sponsored by Creative Loafing, in association with the International Academy of Art and Design.

The event, held at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, began at 9 p.m. and ended – sadly – at 1 a.m.

The Cuban Club, which looks like an official government building from the historic district of Miami-Dade County, greeted guests with the groovy tunes of an unfamiliar band called Band Marino. The music drifted from the rear of the Cuban Club, and the musicians played with the precision of seasoned professionals. People who were enticed by the tunes and tried to follow the music found themselves greeted by enthusiastic gatekeepers, who requested a driver’s license and a $10 admittance fee.

Upon entering, one could find a hodgepodge of artwork lining the walls of the sheltered gallery, aptly titled the Sensory Overload Labyrinth. The themes ranged from political commentary to colorful expressions of emotion.

One exhibition included black and white wheatpasting – similar to papier-mâché -conveying sentiments of love and media.

The labyrinth buzzed with excitement, wonderment and inspiration about the festival. There were patrons admiring art and picking the brains of the artists while members of various news publications sought the impressions conjured by the creative works. The tunes grew louder as one traveled further back toward an opening that led to the courtyard stage.

Patrons were covered by the flickering light of what appeared to be a 20-foot-tall pink banner of this year’s title sponsor: the International Academy of Design and Technology, affectionately referred to as “the Academy” by the students, faculty and staff. Visitors could rock the worries of the week away to the band’s tunes as they viewed displays of various sponsors stationed in a circle around the courtyard.

Features on display included live screen printing by The Ink Tank, cars provided by Ferman MINI of Tampa, collections of neon rave lights, the Academy’s information table, an outside café catered by the Indian cuisine of Tun-du-ree, Magic of the Indian Grill and a fully equipped bar near the rear.

Proto Man, one of the event’s emcees, and DJ Blenda entertained the audience with music and a special segment that included freestyle rapping. A collection of hip-hop artists, the likes of which included Infinite Skillz of St. Petersburg and Joe Stew of Atlanta, promoted their materials to passers-by.

A theater on the second floor displayed short films that were produced by local aspiring directors. On the third floor, there was a gallery of fashion accessories, and the fourth floor held the Polished Palate International Rum Festival.

One of the films was by local director Stu McLaughlin. His film took no more than five minutes to touch on various issues, including international relations between the U.S. and Cuba, family loyalty and death. The film won this year’s USF Campus Movie Festival, and the piece is slated to compete in the Voy Movie Fest in Orlando.

The festival showcased artists from places as close as the Tampa community to places as far as Brooklyn, NY. The night included something for all types of art lovers.

Lea Mewa, the marketing manager at the International Academy of Design and Technology, said the purpose of the festival was to show appreciation of the various forms of art found in our local communities. She had the pleasure of attending last year’s festival and said it has grown since last year.

The event provides a venue large enough to give increased exposure to aspiring artists in all industries, from fashion and painting to film, music and culinary. For more information on the artists, sponsors, participation and coordinators of the event, visit