TEA Connect Blog

25 April 2018

TEA Advantage: Gary Wichansky, Hotopp Associates

I wish that all industry groups and associations were as welcoming, accepting and valuable as the TEA.

-- Gary Wichansky, President/Partner, Hotopp Associates

Gary Wichansky, Hotopp

Gary Wichansky is at the helm of Hotopp, a design agency based in Seattle with offices in Orlando, New York, and San Diego. As co-owner, creating and sustaining a culture of inclusivity and collaboration has been Gary’s top goal as owner of Hotopp, and becoming an active member of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has been key in the realization of Hotopp’s success.

Gary is a hands-on leader, and he places importance on Hotopp being a gathering place for creative doers where everyone’s voices are heard in what he refers to as “facilitating the willing suspension of disbelief’” for various industries including television, museums, live corporate events, and themed entertainment. The Seattle office is the creative hub of Hotopp, and its open-plan studio embodies a sense of warmth and craftsmanship. In the inviting, reclaimed industrial space busy design teams collaborate at workstations and seamlessly interact with the company's fabrication and administrative teams.

Like many theme park professionals, Gary’s background is in theater. He began designing and building scenery in middle school and even in the early days thrived by embracing his entrepreneurial side and putting designers and construction crews together and contracting them as a team. It was Gary’s affinity for theater that encouraged him to pursue scenic design in college but as a professional he has come back to his roots as the connector of talent and a facilitator of the conversation.

Gary (second panelist from left) speaks about ICE!
at TEA behind-the-scenes event in 2017

As his career had officially launched into working in the New York theater scene, Gary began cultivating work in other fields such as corporate events and television design. In 2003, Gary was hired at Hotopp to art-direct one of the company's largest projects: ICE! [this project has been the setting for a TEA behind-the-scenes event]. The success of ICE! helped propel Hotopp to the next level in terms of company positioning and what it could offer clients in terms of a more complex menu of creative services, and more efficient production process.

Gary moved up the ladder, becoming owner of Hotopp in 2013 and together with business partner and COO Mike Hudson, his business partner and COO, set out to analyze how to create awareness and grow the reach of the Hotopp brand. One of the people they consulted was Bettina Buckley, with whom they had become acquainted through the company’s founder, Michael Hotopp. Bettina, currently Vice President at Disney Parks Live Entertainment at Walt Disney World, introduced them to the TEA.

Gary and Mike began attending TEA mixers and events and quickly realized the value of TEA membership. Once becoming members, Hotopp had immediate accessibility to making new and meaningful connections. The main goals for Gary and Mike as new owners of Hotopp, were to establish the company’s presence in the industry, as well as to develop an enhanced definition of their brand. The cultivation of relationships was how Hotopp had thrived for almost 30 years and the TEA was instrumental in the new owners’ desire to scale that vision. Although they work across multiple industries, the team at Hotopp has not found the equivalent anywhere else. As members of the TEA, Gary feels that his vision to grow Hotopp is now more attainable than ever.

“We are always on the lookout for industry groups to join, and I wish they were all as welcoming, accepting and valuable as the TEA," says Gary. "Our association with the organization has been instrumental in our growth and success."

Story by Matt Kent and Alyssa Hostetler

 

 

 

Posted by Judy Rubin

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