CHICAGO On Friday night, guests in black-tie attire perched atop furry pink love seats at the Museum of Science and Industry's Columbian Ball. “One of our co-chairs referred to the lounge areas as our Austin Powers setups,“ said Denise Hicks, the museum's manager of campaign special events, before the gala. “The theme of the ball is 'A Celebration of You: Mind, Body, and Spirit.' It's based on our new permanent exhibition, 'You! The Experience,' which is very colorful and interactive, and we wanted that to play out throughout the evening.”
Bold hues and '60s inspiration carried over from the museum's lounges to the dinner tent, which Heffernan Morgan decked with red, blue, yellow, and green strips of fabric. Designers also hung disco balls and chandeliers from the marquee that lead to the dinner area, and topped tables with bright floral arrangements and glowing light boxes.
Hicks said “health and well-being,” another of the gala's themes, inspired Food for Thought's menu. During the cocktail reception, a menu of health-conscious appetizers included steamed duck pot stickers with organic soy sauce and a Tiger shrimp dish that food-station signage described as “packed with vitamin B12.” Beside an illuminated bar splashed with bright letters that spelled out “You!,” another station offered an alcohol-free shooter of beet juice infused with herbs, apples, and carrots.
The evening's live auction, with television journalist Bill Kurtis as M.C., focused on sports-centric packages such as a trip to Oregon's Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Kurtis donned a red boxer's robe to underscore the auction's theme, and each time a lot was sold, Jesse White Tumblers took acrobatic leaps over the stage in order to “help punctuate the auction and make it more interactive,” Hicks said.
With some 800 guests in attendance, this year's ball drew about 150 more donors than its 2008 iteration. Shannon Alexander, the museum's vice president of external affairs, credited the planning committee with the boost in attendance. “To draw guests, we relied, as we typically do, on very strong co-chairs,” she said on Thursday. ”This year's co-chairs, Cathy and Bill Osborn and Barbara and David Speer, and our auction co-chairs [Mr. and Mrs. Dennis FitzSimons and Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Gidwitz] have a strong presence in the community and can help pull in a great group of people. We also relied on the exhibition. This is the first time since 2004 that we've been able to highlight a permanent exhibition at the gala, and that makes it fun and special.”