CHICAGO At Friday night's ArtEdge benefit, hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, guests engaged in a variety of seemingly incongruous activities. During the cocktail reception at Venue One, the new event space owned and represented by Event Creative, partygoers blew bubbles, played hopscotch, and doodled on chalkboards. By dinnertime, they were feasting on caviar in a sleek, all-white space filled with candles, and the night ended with a rock concert on a skull-adorned stage.
According to Kim Merlin, an event designer and set decorator who has worked on such films as Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, three buzzwords contributed to the night's multiple themes. In planning sessions with Gina Crowley, the museum's director of special events and rentals, chair Cari Sacks, the volunteer planning committee, and producers from Event Creative, “three words were bandied about,” Merlin said. “They were eat, play, rock."
Planners aimed to “break the party down into those three different elements,” Merlin said. “We loved the idea of [juxtaposing] a beautiful, elegant dinner with somewhere to engage your inner child, play, and have fun with cocktails.” As for the after-dinner rock concert from Camp Freddy—a cover band whose rotating cast of famous musicians featured Dave Navarro on guitar for the event—“our chair felt very strongly that that part of the party would have a down-and-dirty rock theme,” Merlin said.
The benefit's ever-changing look gave Merlin and the Event Creative team a tight time frame in which to flip the space. As soon as guests left the park-theme cocktail reception and headed downstairs for dinner, staffers got to work upstairs. In one hour, they plastered concert posters over chalkboards and replaced white seat cushions with black ones on swing sets and lounge furniture. Daisies sprung up from sod in the early part of the evening, but by the after-party the flowers were gone and crumpled beer cans had taken their place. A blue-and-purple lighting scheme gave the after-party a moody vibe, and the illuminated bar—white during cocktail hour—was covered with black panels with die-cut skull and crossbones.
There was one more surprise in store for guests who stuck around all evening: At about 11 p.m., unannounced guest Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders appeared onstage and sang her hit “Brass in Pocket” as museum donors danced along.