Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Candytopia
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine walking into a rainbow-filled room filled with flying unicorn pigs and confetti explosions galore. Right around the corner is an equally whimsical wonderland—an underwater-themed space with fantastical candy-covered sea creatures.
And did I mention the sugary sweet scent that fills the air?
Chances are, you are pinching yourself because the fanciful world around you simply does not exist outside of a dream. But the pinch hurts, revealing that everything you are seeing is very much real.
Then, just when you think all of your childhood fantasies have come true, you see something so quixotic that even your imagination couldn’t conjure it up—a humongous pit filled with more than 250,000 foam marshmallows into which you can dive.
These are just some of the things that can be found at Candytopia, an interactive art installation at Scottsdale Quarter that celebrates the vibrant colors and flavors of our favorite sugary delights across more than a dozen environments.
The pop-up exhibit, which runs through Dec. 29, was curated by television personality Jackie Sorkin, who has made a name for herself—the Candy Queen, to be exact—by appearing in a number of candy-themed reality shows. She is also CEO of fun food and dessert catering company, Hollywood Candy Girls.
“Candy just happens to be my favorite medium,” Sorkin says. “I also love confetti, glitter, rhinestones, wrappers and metallics. But candy is my most favorite medium because it is endlessly versatile.”
The founder and co-creator of Candytopia originally launched the concept in Taiwan and China in 2013 and 2017, respectively. The extraordinary success of those candy pop-up exhibitions—Hollywood Candy Queen’s Kingdom and The Candy Darling—encouraged Sorkin to bring a similar concept to the US.
“I was creating candy pop-ups before ‘pop-ups’ were popping up here,” Sorkin says. “Candytopia was created for the US market with all the same beautiful candy art, sensory overload and fun that took Asia by storm. The spark was knowing how universally beloved and appealing candy is.”
Sorkin adds that people tend to resonate with their favorite candy and sweets regardless of where around the world they reside. Therefore, it was only natural to use the love of that element that we all have in common to create art.
“I have thousands of types of candy and colors to pick from,” Sorkin explains. “Hard candy, gummy, sours, jelly beans, licorice, rock candy… as an artist, the palette is never-ending. We manipulate candy and play with it to create shading, textures and life-like features. We eat a ton of it while working, too.”
Candytopia features about 60 pieces of incredible custom candy art and sculptures. Each set requires two to three months to build. The exhibit has been traveling from city to city and, in just 19 months, has welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors.
“To think US audiences would respond so incredibly to the Candytopia concept is truly a dream come true,” Sorkin says. “I think we have truly proven that the world just wants to smile, feel good, be silly, take some great pics for their fave social media outlets and have some fun. Guests of all ages are tapping into their inner child once again and having some good, clean fun.”
In addition to the pieces that can be seen at Candytopia’s pop-up exhibits across the country, the Scottsdale location features new elements inspired by local culture and landmarks unique to Arizona—including a candy portrait of the Grand Canyon, candy cacti, candy cowboys and more.
Sorkin loves all of the elements that make up Candytopia equally, but she has a certain sweet spot for the exhibit’s candy gallery.
“The candy gallery is a modern-day art gallery that screams candy and really highlights the beautiful candy artistry that my team and I have perfected for over a decade,” Sorkin says. “It is a beautiful, magical space full of crystal chandeliers, our mirrored throne and all of our fantastic portraits and some of our most highly photographed pieces.”
The Candy Queen adds that she and the entire Candytopia team is proud to be in the “happiness business,” and they take fun very seriously.
“People want to be happy now more than ever—and we all deserve it,” Sorkin says. “We stand for spreading joy and sweetness in a place where everyone belongs.”
Through Dec. 29 | Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m. | Sunday 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m. | Scottsdale Quarter | 15147 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale