The weather may have been dreary as guests arrived at Pier 57 on Tuesday night, but this year's Friends of the High Line benefit looked to bring some sunshine indoors. Continuing to grow in size and scope, the event raised more than $3 million and saw more than 1,000 attendees, including Sarah Jessica Parker and longtime patrons Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and honorees Jeff Koons and Darren Walker.
The gala, previously held in the summer months, was moved to spring last year and is perhaps the most important event of the year for the organization that maintains the new park. According to Bronson van Wyck, president of the event's production firm, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, and a member of the Friends of the High Line's board of directors, the design of the fund-raiser is especially significant and always incorporates some allusion to the park's history, architecture, or native foliage.
This year the team, led by producer David Hawryluk, looked to brighten the decommissioned bus depot with decor. “The challenge with the pier is its scale and the fact that it can feel cold and raw. In thinking of how to counteract the coldness of the pier, we turned to the warmest thing we know: the sun,” said van Wyck.
To create a warmer and more inviting environment, the organizers added soft lighting to mimic afternoon sunlight and a generous amount of greenery throughout the space. For the dining area, the design crew built a “sun"—a disc five feet in diameter and filled with more than 4,000 LEDs—which was suspended on a track running the length of the pier using aircraft cable. A metronomic clock operated the illuminated piece, moving it along this path two inches at a time, while a succession of large mirrored sheets alternately hid and revealed its rays. The result was the illusion of an eclipse that continued for the duration of the night.
Before heading to dinner, guests sipped cocktails in an area designed to feel like a picnic. A reclaimed wood and cinder block communal table stood in the center and live dogwood trees enclosed the space. Atop the faux grass carpet, plush velvet furnishings accented with bright yellow pillows provided additional seating around the perimeter and a photo op in the corner invited guests to pose in front of an image of High Line Park.
Catering company Bite Food's Scott Skey and Nick Hosea looked to match the event's design with a three-part menu served family-style. Preset prior to the guests' arrival, the first setting included spring asparagus tarts, seared venison, and savory corn pudding. For the second course, waitstaff served lobster and crab salad, spring vegetable pot pie, and mushroom lasagna. Dessert included black cherry charlotte, banana toffee trifle, toasted coconut tarts, and ice cream sandwiches.