For those who love partying for a good cause, the Miami Valley offers a wide range of options. In many ways, the Dayton Art Institute’s Art Ball remains in a class by itself.
This year’s gala, the 61st Art Ball, is slated for Saturday, June 9. Here are just a few of the ingredients that make this annual summer bash so special.
>> PHOTOS: Dayton Art Institute Art Ball 2017
It’s Dayton’s oldest black tie gala
The DAI formal event traces its roots back to the Junior League of Dayton’s Christmas Ball, also known as the Holiday Ball. Beginning in 1957, these elegant parties were organized by the Junior League of Dayton and held at the museum with proceeds benefiting the DAI.
Dayton Daily News Women’s Editor Elizabeth Lyman got it right when she predicted that the first gala “has promise of establishing a precedent.”
The annual party moved to the spring in 1963; in 1965 the museum’s Associate Board, comprised of 32 couples in the community, took over planning and execution of the event.
It has always been inspired by art from the museum’s collection
Each year, Art Ball chairs are invited to choose a piece from the permanent collection as the basis of the year’s theme. Nat Croumer and Jeff Pizza, this year’s chairs, selected a colorful Willem de Kooning painting for their featured artwork.
Willem de Kooning was a Dutch abstract expressionist artist who was born in the Netherlands and moved to the United States in 1926. Along with his contemporaries — Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline — de Kooning was characterized as an “action painter” because of his unique abstract and gestural painting style.
When the Croemer and Pizza were walking through the galleries and spotted the vibrant painting, they immediately realized they’d found the perfect piece of art.”The style of — and colors in — the painting evoke a mid-century sensibility and gave us the perfect theme of a glamorous 1960s cocktail party,” Croemer explains. “We have always enjoyed abstract art, particularly bold and colorful pieces. Our goal was to highlight an important part of the collection that reflects the vibrancy, boldness and vigor with which the Museum has entered the 21st century.”
The men say the multiple colors in the painting will be evoked in the linens, flowers and lighting: rich blue, vibrant orange, yellow, cream, royal purple and vivid green.
The elegant setting makes this party special
Dayton’s gorgeous art museum looks even more spectacular on the night of the Art Ball, which begins with a VIP cocktail hour for major donors then continues with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for all 850 formally attired attendees.
A highlight of the evening is always the formal dinner served in the galleries, where patrons are surrounded by artistic treasures. This year’s guests will dine on beef tenderloin with Dijon mustard sauce; chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms; an Athena salad (red and yellow tomatoes; cucumber cones with feta mozzarella; basil carrot ring and edible flowers topped with fried red onion). Featured desserts are Alaskan cheesecake bake-covered in meringue with a tuile spoon and banana custard tart topped with bananas foster topping and meringue garnish with tuile spoon.
After the meal, guests will dance in both of the Gothic Cloisters and can spend time in the outdoor lounge setting with its beautiful view of downtown Dayton.
The party helps ensure the future of the museum
“The Art Ball continues to be the second most profitable fundraiser for the DAI,” says the museum’s director Michael Roediger. “Funds raised support the care of the facility and the collection as well our educational programs. It’s as much a friend-raiser as it is fundraiser.”
For many years, funds raised by the event supported the museum’s permanent acquisitions fund, enabling the museum to add many works of art to its permanent collection. Pieces acquired include “Allegory of Summer and Winter” by Giovanni Battista Pittoni; “Wolfeboro II”; “The Flea Hunt” by Gerrit van Honthorst; and “Sea Change” by Helen Frankenthaler.
In 2006, Art Ball proceeds conserved one of the museum’s most recognized pieces, “Joy of the Waters.” Most recently, funds raised by the Art Ball have supported general museum operations.
It’s a night to remember
The couples who make up the DAI’s Associate Board host both the Art Ball and Oktoberfest.
“Art Ball is a singular and well-loved event,” says Croemer. “Our fellow Associate Board members and the DAI staff have all worked very hard with us as a team to bring to this year’s Art Ball all the fun and sophistication of the 1960s — from the music throughout the evening to the dramatic and innovative lighting to the sumptuous food. Guests will be treated to a feast for all the senses.”
Pizza says the DAI is one of Dayton’s most important cultural jewels and is much more than a warehouse for a fine art collection. “It provides educational opportunities, inspires people of all ages through its programming and exhibitions and is a true community partner,” he says. “We care about art and the impact it can have as much as we care about Dayton and its future. Being involved with the DAI has given us the opportunity to help ensure the museum will be an integral part of Dayton’s bright future.”