By Brittany Peitsmeyer Posted March 19, 2009, 11:39 AM EDT
MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA When planning Saturday's second annual Art for Life Miami Beach fund-raiser, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation director of special events Vanessa Rodriguez faced a timely challenge: upping the ante amid a recession. Founded by brothers Russell, Danny, and Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons, the charity raised nearly $575,000 at its star-studded inaugural outing last year. This time Rodriguez again enlisted the services of production company Sutka Productions International Inc. and brought on Charity Buzz, a Web site assisting nonprofit groups with fund-raising auctions.
“It was really important for us to be as economical as possible, especially given the state the economy,” said Rodriguez. “Sutka generously agreed to underwrite a significant portion of the decor for this event and even came on board as a sponsor.”
Held inside the Fontainebleau's adjoining Fleur de Lis and Fontaine ballrooms, the event channeled old Hollywood—taking a page from the hotel's interior design. “We wanted to make sure our design maintained the integrity of the hotel,” said Sutka Productions president Bruce Sutka.
Sheer white draping divided the two spaces into cocktail and dining areas, both decorated with a simple black, white, and silver color scheme, cutting the themed vignettes in the cocktail space seen at last year's event. The Sutka team recreated the lobby's 13-foot crystal chandeliers and grand piano on a smaller scale for the dining room centerpieces.
During the cocktail hour, Charity Buzz displayed auction items posted on its Web site. Available for nearly two weeks prior to the event, lots not sold during Saturday's live auction, which Patrick Tully of marketing and management company T Sports & Entertainment led after dinner, are available online through March 24.
Russell and Danny Simmons welcomed the 375 guests—albeit 40 minutes late due to tardy arrivals—and introduced a video about the charity's arts education programs. The presentation was shown on two large projection screens flanking the stage, a change from last year when Rodriguez used plasma TVs around the perimeter of the Bath Club's dining room.
Kim Kardashian of Keeping Up With the Kardashians served as M.C. for the night's program, which honored Anheuser-Busch Inc., Miami's Rubell family, and Jeffrey Soffer of the Fontainebleau Resorts for their support of youth arts education. Recently retired Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning received a surprise tribute for his community work in South Florida with the Alonzo Mourning Chairities.
Saturday's live auction raised more than $60,000, increasing the total amount raised this year to more than $300,000 thus far—down nearly $275,000 from last year—with six days left in the online auction.