When I came back from Japan in 2003, I began assisting my mother with occasional artistic projects. And despite my mother’s attempts to lure me into decorative art full-time, I would return to Universal Orlando, where I would remain for ten years. Before leaving the company in August of 2013, I performed in dozens of shows, parades, and events. Eventually, I earned a spot as a Show Director in Entertainment Production, and began choreographing and directing live shows and parades, as well as writing scripts, directing videos, and joining the haunted maze design team for Halloween Horror Nights. And even though I have left theme parks in my rear view, my passion for Halloween will always be there, one shared with my whole family.
This particular day would end in an unfortunate scooter accident, in which I received a nice scar on my left foot. My head was protected by that wax-laden, bleached hedgehog-looking hair I sported back then.
The following year, I was given an opportunity to conceive and co-write my first live show, ScareSearch. In addition to performing as a singer/dancer in the eight-person show, I also designed the costumes and designed and built most of the props.
I then departed Orlando again for six months, performing as a dancer on the cruise ship Costa Victoria, which allowed me to observe cultures and art all over the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas. I also saw some other stuff and had a beer or two. I don’t want to give the idea I was spending every day ashore going to museums.
I performed in a multitude of parades, musical shows, and stunt shows for Disney, Universal, and Anheuser-Busch, as well as traveling overseas for Costa Cruise Lines and countless other specialty shows across the US. While earning a living in performing, my passion for creating continued to rear its head as I began to choreograph and teach dance classes as well. While working at Busch Gardens in 1999, I was a part of the inaugural Halloween event, Howl-O-Scream, in which I performed as a stilt-walking monster in a costume I designed and constructed.
My first paintings were terrible.
My first exposure to art came early in life. As a small child I traveled with my mother to various art festivals, and when she began to teach painting classes out of the basement of my childhood home in Carrier Mills, Illinois, I was right there annoying the heck out of her. Eventually, she realized the best way to shut me up was to allow me to participate, and since the first time I stared at a blank canvas, my love for art has continued to grow.
I’m center, wearing a steam punk revival of my first Halloween project in ’99 with (from left) my sister, father, mother, and brother-in-law at his annual party.
The stars would eventually align, however, and I would leave theme parks behind and dedicate my life to art in many forms, as well as throwing my passion into song-writing and live acoustic performances with my wife.
After returning from the cruise ship, I promptly signed a contract with Universal Studios Japan, which operated a park in Osaka. One of the first things I did when I arrived was locate an art store and buy new paints to replace the ones I had to leave in the states, and a guitar. I then spent the next thirteen months observing Japanese culture, architecture, and art while painting and teaching myself to play the guitar.
I also went to Australia on vacation and woke up at three o’clock in the morning to grill out and watch live American football (Osaka is twelve hours ahead of the Eastern time zone). Again, I don’t want to give the impression I wasn’t having any fun. I included a picture and accompanying caption I received in a package from a guest. You have to love those translation programs.
That’s me next to Katie Couric. Notice she has her arm around my shoulders...totally putting the moves on me.
I studied art throughout high school and my first year at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, where I also played football and was a member of the wrestling team. And although I enjoyed modest success as an athlete, art and an urge to create it continued to beckon. I worked as a sports writer in the sports information department of my college, in addition to hosting a pair of weekly talk shows on Knox’s radio station, WVKC 90.7 FM. I was also enrolling in several art and creative writing courses. And, despite having never played an instrument, I took a music writing course as well.
Aaron Wade's Art