Institute of Contemporary Art Celebrates 75th Anniversary in Secret Location

Photo: Liz Linder

The Institute of Contemporary Art rang in its 75th anniversary on Friday night with dinner for 700 guests in a Logan Airport hangar—a location that was not revealed until the night of the event. When they arrived at the museum, partygoers hopped aboard trolleys and were taken to the hangar, where a Delta plane was branded with the institute's logo. The event raised $1.9 million.

When the original venue plan—to tent the museum’s parking lot—fell through, event planners thought outside the museum’s own property for an alternative. “For the museum’s 75th anniversary, we needed to create a meaningful event that celebrated the rich history of the Institute of Contemporary Art while keeping an eye towards a successful future,” said director of special events Susie Allen. “Losing the parking lot turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we searched high and low to find a unique venue and ended up with a truly unforgettable space.” 

The challenges of working in the soaring hangar included creating intimacy and warmth, which Allen tackled with the help of designers from Corinthian Events. Load-in began at 6 a.m. on the morning of the event, and every person in the crew had to go through strict airport security. 

Instead of competing with the industrial space, event producers embraced it. “It is not often you use the words intimate and 757 jumbo jet to describe a venue, but we accomplished just that,” Allen said. Port Lighting and Shoreline AV  worked with the Corinthian team to add lighting and sound to the space. At tables topped with yellow linens, guests sat in Louis and Lucite chiavari chairs from Peterson Party Center and PBD Events.

Tables paid homage to significant years in the museum’s history with place cards highlighting a milestone from that year. The marker for table 1941, for example, had a sentence explaining that Frida Kahlo showed her work at the museum in that year.

Waitstaff served bite-size appetizers from chef Ken Oringer and Wolfgang Puck Catering, and options included shrimp cocktail shooters, mini tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and tequila shots in branded spray bottles.

After a dinner of tuna ceviche and venison with red curry squash, cocoa, dried black olives, and mustard greens, guests heard from museum director Jill Medvedow and experienced the art they were there to support with a dance performance choreographed by Rashaad Newsome, who currently has a performance exhibition at the museum.

Trolleys then brought guests back to the museum for cocktails, dessert, and dancing to the band Il Abanico and dance tracks from DJ Kiss. Guests took black-and-white photos in a photo booth, which were then displayed on flat-screen TVs throughout the space.

An additional 250 guests joined an after-party, which had separate tickets available for $125 to $150 a pop, versus the gala ticket price of $2,000. “The after-party is a great opportunity to bring new energy into the night while giving some of our younger patrons a chance to celebrate with the gala attendees,” said Allen of the lower-ticket-price portion of the event added last year.

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