This past Saturday I co-chaired – along with my husband, Jeff Levy, and dear friend, Todd Tautfest – Veneralia to benefit the Michael C. Carlos Museum’s Works on Paper (WOP) collection. I’ve promoted and attended this decades-old spring gala for years, so we set out to bring some fresh ideas to draw new audiences while maintaining what its old-guard supporters have grown to love.
We started with a surprise activation of Nikki Nye’s and Amy Flurry’s Paper-Cut-Project during the cocktail reception. Right before we seated the guests for dinner models dressed in wearable sculptural paper works of art strutted through the room and climbed onto a stage where they posed. It set the tone for the evening – this was going to be special.
Our caterer, Dennis Dean, A Catering Company, incorporated the paper theme into the dinner serving fish in parchment. The event designer, Robert Long, made each table a little different. This might not be something that every guest noticed but all the little touches make the event something to talk about.
Instead of sitting through dinner and dessert, we moved guests back into the reception hall for dessert and a special performance by Atlanta-based alternative rock group, Von Grey, a trio of classically trained sisters. Again – it was unexpected. By now, guests are usually clamoring to the valet line but the allure of this band kept them until the close.
Most museums only show about two percent of their collections, The Carlos included. The WOP collection spans the centuries from the Renaissance to today and includes some of the finest examples of significant prints, drawings and photographs in the world. So, we came up with a creative way to showcase the art that you would otherwise need to make a special appointment to the basement to see: Netkr and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship created the Atlanta’s first-ever 360 Virtual Reality tour of an exhibit. CLICK HERE to experience it. Guests received the specially designed VR goggles and a link to the VR video in their gift bags. So even as they left – we were still giving them an experience that made Veneralia something special.
What I learned from making an old party new?
Keep what your old-guard supporters have come to love about the event, which in this case was a cocktail reception and seated dinner.
Have fun – if you’re having a good time your guests will too. Know that you’ve already done the work and during the event it’s your job as the chair to enjoy it
Surprise and delight them at every point in the night
Paper-Cut Project activation during the cocktail hour