Artcade Scores Big With Pinball, Retro Games, And Art
by James Coulter
After a long day of work, there’s nothing that Madison “Maddie” Gibbons loves more than blowing off some steam, either by playing a few rounds of pinball or by working on her newest art piece. Fortunately for her, she can do both at the Artcade in Winter Haven.
Ever since it first opened last year, Maddie has been a regular customer at the Artcade. Often she spends hours trying to get the high score in pinball, her favorite cabinets being Demolition Man and Addams Family.
“What I enjoy most about the Artcade is the peace and relaxation,” she said. “I can come here before work, after work, or during break to wind down. There is always somebody here to talk to, but you can come over here and play games for hours and get lost in it.”
When not playing pinball, Maddie also spends her free time working on her art. Her artwork focuses heavily on bright colors and bold lines, with her biggest artistic influence being Jhonen Vasquez, the creator of “Invader Zim” and “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.”
Both the lively, electric energy of the Artcade with its pinball machines and retro video games, and the bright, colorful atmosphere with the overall design prove most inspirational for Maddie and her art. Many of her own pieces hang in the bathroom and upon the back wall.
“[I love] the ability to take a break, but not lose the creativity, because if I am worn out and don’t know what to draw, I can just get up and play some Addams or Demolition Man,” she said. “I could play for an hour or two, and then sit down and have a new idea to draw,” she said.
Whether it’s the games, the creative energy, or the camraderie with other customers and the owner, the Artcade provides the perfect haven for Maddie where she can either relax after a long day or energize herself with creativity and artistic inspiration.
“For me to come over here and have a peaceful place to draw or play while also supporting a really cool business is absolutley on point with how I want to spend my free time.”
Located in Bells Alley along First Street in Winter Haven, the Artcade, true to its name, is an arcade that combines art with pinball and retro gaming. When they all collide, they create quite the spectacle, like a silver pinball knocking against colorful bumpers and lights. So think of it like “Painting With A Twist,” only with more gaming and not strictly focused on gaming, owner Jett Carrerou said.
Recently, the Artcade hosted its first monthly Open Art Night, where guests could exercise their creativity and express themselves by working on their own art canvases using their own combinations of paint, glitter, and magic markers.
“Our art is open up for interpetation,” Carrerou said. “We have a bunch of people here bouncing ideas off of each other, kind of like open mic night.”
More than a dozen pinball machines and retro arcade cabinets are provided at the venue for customers to play, with the option to pay and play by the hour for $8 or all-you-can-play (AYCP) for $15 the entire day.
Take a blast from the past with classic pinball machines like Addams Family or Ghostbusters, arcade cabinets like Street Fighter II, or even retro gaming consoles such as the Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo with a diverse gaming library to select from.
When not trying their hands at playing games, customers can also get into their creative side through various art events, both public and private. The arcade is available to rent out for parties and other special events during or after business hours.
Every month, the Artcade hosts its Monthly Artcade Meetup, an International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) sanctioned pinball tournament. Other tournaments and events have included games ranging from Street Fighter II to Dungeons and Dragons. Basically, any game that you love to play, be it video, card, or board, the Artcade can either provide or help facilitate.
For many regular customers like Brittany Hudson, the big draw, of course, are the pinball games. Before first arriving in January, she wasn’t big into pinball; but now she loves it so much that she has joined the women’s pinball leauge, Belles and Chimes, of which Carrerou is the Florida Chapter Director.
“I have been coming here since January,” Hudson said. “I have been really into pinball, and I’ve never been into pinball before…Seems like fun to create art with local people. I love the people that I met through here.”
The Artcade opened in August of last year. Before then, Carrerou had also been running her other business, The Piercing Boutique, across the street for the past 7 years. As a pinball aficionado, Carrerou purchased her own pinball cabinet in 2014.
Her love for pinball and art soon inspired her to open her own arcade and art venue. Since opening last year, her business has boomed with plenty of regular customers, some of whom participate in monthly and three-month memberships.
“We already have regulars who come weekly, who come monthly, and we do monthly memberships and three month memberships,” she said. “Both of them have active memberships, which is very awesome.”
Currently, business has done so well that an expansion next door is planned, not only offering more space, but also more games including air hockey and billiards. Hopefully, if business continues to boom, Carrerou even plans to move to a larger location within a year.
The Artcade is located at 1149 1st Street S, Winter Haven, FL, 33880. For more information, call 863-656-1715. Or visit their social media pages on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ARTCADEWinterHaven/, or on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/artcade_winterhaven/