The Hulfish Project: Art with Attitude
Jason Hulfish Design Studio
2705 E. Hanna Ave., Tampa
A few blocks east of Seminole Heights, 45-year-old artist Jason Hulfish creates creatures and backdrops that invoke a surreal cotton candy-induced fever dream. A giant Great White shark head lurches from the wall as pink princess castles are readied for final touches in the center of the space. Giant football helmets double as chairs, and a big T-rex spooks from the back corner. The large-size pieces are created meticulously with realistic detail and the around-the-clock help of Master Builder Ben Solberg in the Tampa studio. They're used as backdrop pieces for bedrooms, businesses and other spaces.
Hulfish, a Clearwater native and a Northeast High School graduate, has a keen sense of both creativity and business. Above all, he has a dogged work ethic. Hulfish used his artistic talents to design shirts for friends, then murals and then 3-D fixtures and furniture to go with those murals.
One project has led to another as Hulfish airbrushed himself a veritable scenic-art kingdom of his own. Hulfish's designs have been featured on a slew of cable and network TV shows, including Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Treehouse Masters, PoshTots — where he designed fantasy bedrooms for Rev. Run and Joey Fatone's kids — and Bar Rescue.
Next up for Hulfish is a web-based reality TV series, produced by Tim Owens, a cinematographer who met Hulfish on the set of Treehouse Masters. The show is set to launch early January.
Says Owens of Hulfish on their Kickstarter campaign's website: "Jason not only works out of an art studio in Tampa, Fla., but travels across the country and globe to install his masterpieces. As a director working on a tiny budget, I need donations to help pay for the plane tickets, so I can follow Jason on his multiple journeys. In order to keep production costs down, I’m the only crew member that travels — but this also means that we need to hire local crew members in each filming destination."
The guys have another good use for the Kickstarter project — so that Landon Harrington, a Tampa 6-year-old with a unique set of challenges, could live in a bedroom with a stimulating and amusing sensory environment. Coordinated with help of Landon's mother, Michelle Morales (who, incidentally, started her own nonprofit to help kids with challenges get much-needed therapy) told Hulfish that she had an underwater scene in mind with neon colors, but she really can't afford it.
No doubt, Landon's needs incur a heap of expenses. He has suffered severe brain damage and has been diagnosed visually impaired, on the Autism spectrum. He is non-verbal, has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and a sensory processing disorder. He was also diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system.
"They just don't have the funds and to get one of these rooms, so we're trying to pool our resources and reach out to the community through our Kickstarter project," says Hulfish. "We're raising funds so that we can not only build the room but film the process for our reality show. We want to tell their story through the project that we're doing for them."
The Kickstarter campaign so far has only raised around 40 percent of the $50,000 goal, but Morales is counting on Hulfish, whom she met through a mutual friend when the Tampa Bay Times published a story in 2010 about what Rays players did in honor of Landon.
"Working with Jason has been absolutely amazing," says Morales. "He has a heart of gold and is willing to go above and beyond for Landon.
Speaking of amazing, Landon is a tough and positive boy who smiles and laughs through his setbacks. His mom named her non-profit, Mr. Strong, after him.
Hulfish found out from Morales and Landon what would make Landon swoon over his new room. Some of his ideas include a ball pit, a TV wall with interactive panels, texture objects low enough on the wall for Landon to reach.
"Landon cannot walk or sit unassisted," Morales says, "plus he is visually impaired, so the colorful lights will be an amazing feature for him. There will be an integrated sofa, a dome cave with music and a swing and a jelly fish chair with light-up tentacles."
Scroll down for more images of Landon and Hulfish's Tampa studio.