By Jenny Berg Posted January 28, 2009, 11:01 AM EST
CHICAGO “I just saw a 70-year-old man jumping up and down like a little kid," said one guest at the Museum of Contemporary Art's benefit on Saturday night. Dubbed “Dry Ice," the intimate gathering drew some 200 guests and began with a cocktail reception in the museum's loading dock, where bubble-wrap-lined floors inspired some guests to stomp and hop.
Apart from the D.I.Y. popping sounds, the evening's highlights included an hour-long performance from singer Rufus Wainwright, dinner in lounge-like seating areas on the museum's main floor, and a live auction that allowed guests to bid on contemporary artwork from the likes of Jenny Holzer and Jeff Koons. Tickets went for $1,500 each.
According to Gina Crowley, the museum's director of special events and rentals, the high ticket price was partially due to the frigid January temps. “The M.C.A.'s outdoor space can't be utilized,” she said before the benefit. ”Since the event is contained inside, its size is limited and tickets are priced accordingly.”
Though she admitted that the current state of the economy made selling tickets the greatest challenge of the planning process, Crowley said the cause was a major draw for its target audience: top M.C.A. donors. “We stressed that this event is a benefit for the museum's operating budget, and not just a party on one night,” she said. “It is a vital fund-raising tool for the M.C.A."
Crowley and her planning team marketed the fund-raiser through mailed save-the-date cards and invites; they also used the M.C.A.'s Web site to showcase the who's-who demographic of the evening's attendees. “A unique—and successful—component of our invitation was a Web-site feature that allowed people to click on the page and see who was coming to the benefit," she said.
Ultimately, guests included Mayor Richard Daley and Ikram Goldman, who owns a local boutique that's famously frequented by Michelle Obama.