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this is how it's done: the dallas art ball

Edited by: Cator Sparks
on May 1st, 2012
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On Saturday the 14th of April I had the honor of gracing the highly polished floors of the Dallas Museum of Art for their annual Art Ball. This is to Dallas what the Met Ball is to Manhattan. But dare I say it, there is way more money and a hell of a lot more hysterics in Dallas. Cowboys sure know how to party. 

 The event was extra special this year since organizers hired creative wunderkind, Douglas Little, to add major magic to the entire event from themed dining rooms to tongue in cheek silent auction displays. After swilling with Dallas’ elite the crowd scampered down to the newly revamped Rio Room to hear Erykah Badu sing to the art loving ladies with big hair and bigger heels. And no big night out in Dallas can be complete without a two step around the dance floor of the Western themed gay bar, The Round Up. I will never forget twirling drunkenly around the floor with a Daphne Guinness-esque gal while Shania Twain blared from the DJ booth. Can you imagine a night any more amazing?

After the dust settled we had a chat with Mr. Little on his experience dressing Dallas’ top shindig. 

What was the concept behind your wide scope of ideas for the art ball?

The Co-chairs- Mrs. Julie Butler Hawes and Mrs. Merry Vowes wanted Art Ball to be an exotic and exciting experience, something that represented  the theme "Wanderlust".   I wanted the event to be whimsical, playful, and encourage guests to wander through the space and experience different sensorial experiences in each room.  I mashed up traditional ethnic themes with fantasy and let the creativity snowball.    For instance, there were four dining rooms - the themes were Bollywood, Crystal cavern, Opium den and the Casablanca screening room, where we screened "Auntie Mame".   Each dining room seated about 175 people and was dramatically different. The thematics encouraged guests to visit the other rooms, wander and socialize.  And it worked!

You took the silent auction to the next level with whimsical displays to entice buyers. What were some of your favorites?

The silent auction for most events is typically a conundrum and usually the last thing that anyone likes to deal with.  We designed the silent auction to be more of a focal point and had guests walk down a concourse flanked by the silent auction displays.   I wanted to bring some wit and whimsy to auction items so I scoured Dallas' antique shops for quirky odds and ends.   One of my favorites was a 1940's crane game, all incased in glass and still working. I suspended a behemoth turquoise and diamond bauble from the jaws of the crane.   The ultimate prize amongst the cracker jack rings and bubble gum.  

We must know the inspiration behind the Wondercycle! 

This was another silent auction item concept.   The donated auction item was for a custom designed bicycle of your choice.   I thought it would be funny to commission a local Dallas artisan, Darius Goodson  to create a fantasy bicycle to represent the auction item.   The result was fantastic – somewhere between a Jules Verne machine and a Dr. Seuss illustration. 

How do you see Dallas as an arts city? More progressive than people give it credit for?

Dallas is a powerhouse when it comes to the arts.  You have major collectors working together to acquire collections and bring up-and-coming talent to Dallas for exhibitions and appearances.    I do feel that Dallas is much more progressive than people give it credit for.  Just visiting the Rachofsky house designed by Richard Meier and a stop at Deedie Rose's pump house will leave you speechless.  

What was the highlight of the evening for you?

The highlight of the evening was having a dear friend with me for the experience and hearing that the event had raised far more than expected for the museum.   An incredible collaboration with a fabulous group of people. 

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