A night at the museum

A night at the museum

Cocktails, food and dancing at Springfield Museum’s annual Art Ball

By Rusty Pate

The Springfield Museum of Art will hold its 43rd annual Art Ball on Sept. 8. The event will be held in the Museum, 107 Cliff Park Road in Springfield.
The black-tie affair serves as the largest fundraising event of the year, according to Ann Fortescue, the museum’s executive director.
“We’re seeing people from both the city of Springfield and the Springfield region, but also we’re beginning to draw some folks from outside the immediate Springfield area,” Fortescue said. “I think our attendees and guests are seeing this as a wonderful celebratory event.”
The event consists of a cocktail hour, a formal dinner and dancing.
“For the second year in a row, we will be dining in the museum’s largest gallery,” Fortescue said. “It is a wonderful space.”
The McGregor Gallery, named for former board member Jim McGregor, is a 100-foot-long hall with a curved wall that follows the contours of Buck Creek, which runs just outside the Museum.
The event features a tiered pricing structure, with grand patrons (ages 41 and older) tickets costing $185 and young patron (ages 40 and under) tickets costing $145.
In recent years, the Art Ball demographics have been trending increasingly younger, according to the event’s co-chair Jeff Smith.
“The event’s beginning to attract an increasingly younger audience, which has been terrific,” Smith said. “There has been a long tradition of the established generation having been the primary art ball attendees, but over the last few years, more and more younger individuals are coming.”
It is a trend welcomed by all involved.
“I will use my one-year experience with this event, as well as comments from guests last year,” Fortescue said. “There were quite a number of people who were attending Art Ball either for their first time or this might have been their second time. A number of long-time attendees were just delighted at the number of younger and first-time attendees to the event.”
Smith believes the discounted price for younger attendees represents just one factor as to why this is happening.
“Over the last few years, the chairs of the event have been younger couples,” Smith said. “The advantage of that has been those couples have drawn in their friends and contacts. I think also the selection of the band has helped. The Red Hot Rhythm Review has provided terrific entertainment over the last two years and we certainly look forward to that this year.”
One of the responsibilities of the chairpersons is to select a theme. In years past, it may have been a wide-scoping subject, such as the Greek Isles, but last year’s choice to feature one particular work seems to have caught on.
“Last year, the chairs at the time focused on a painting the museum had acquired within that previous year and I really liked that idea,” Smith said. “It gives another opportunity to highlight the museum as an active museum in terms of actively acquiring artwork – artwork that fits with the theme and mission of the museum.”
This year’s theme revolves around Blanche Lazzell’s 1926 print of “The Monongahela.”
“This Lazzell is a playful, bright, colorful woodcut. It’s a piece of Midwestern regional art done by a woman that just really caught our eye,” Smith said.
The museum will also participate in the Smithsonian’s upcoming Museum Day Live! The event takes place on Sept. 29 and allows anyone with an interest and Internet access to have their own museum experience. Tickets can be downloaded for free from Smithsonian.com.
The Springfield Museum of Art serves as an affiliate of the Smithsonian and is the only art museum in Ohio to carry such a distinction.
Smith believes the role of visual arts and those charged with curating and protecting these works becomes even more important in the modern, over-stimulated world.
“We are inundated with visual images, and in so many cases there is not a lot of thought given to what the visual images look like,” Smith said. “So, for an art museum to support, promote and protect artwork that is a visual representation with visual meaning is so important.”
Art becomes expendable when viewed in terms of spreadsheets and cost-effective analyses. Smith believes the dollars saved come at a high intellectual and societal cost.
“From a purely capitalistic point of view, many builders and developers don’t see a purpose for including art, and yet visual art is so important in today’s society to provide a visually appealing, aesthetically appealing society,” Smith said.
The Springfield Museum of Art’s annual Art Ball will be held on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. For more info visit www.springfieldart.museum or call (937) 325-4673. Museum Day Live! takes place on Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/.
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@daytoncitypaper.com

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