Art Institute Hosts First Family Holiday Party With Acrobats, Spiked Eggnog

By Jenny Berg December 6, 2011, 11:58 AM EST

Photo: Nancy Behall

Art Institute of Chicago's "Let It Snow!" Event
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On November 29, a circular bar in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago held a silver bowl of eggnog. A gospel choir sang “Jingle Bells” from the suspended staircase, and Frost's snow-patterned lights drifted down the walls. The museum's women's board's first holiday event, “Let It Snow!” took inspiration from another institution's wintery fete.

“We were inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual family benefit, where families with members of all ages dress up and gather every year in a convivial atmosphere with wonderful treats and fun activities for all ages,“ said event chair Laura Werner. “We felt that much like in New York, there would be an appetite in Chicago for this kind of event,” and 350 guests made it out.

The goal, Werner said, was “to have a multigenerational event that brought people together to kick off the holiday season with a very special celebration that showcased our museum at its sparkling best.” And once the planning committee came together, “we could hardly confine ourselves to just those things we wanted to include in year one.”

At the entrance, stilt-walkers from the Midnight Circus greeted guests. Inside, Magical Balloon-dude Dale twisted up gingerbread men, princesses, and snowman for the young guests, while servers circulated with adult appetizers, including deviled quail eggs and caviar. Staffers from the Art Institute's educational department manned craft stations where activities had a snowflake theme. Kids could decorate ornaments, create snow globes and glittery buttons, and have their photos snapped in a booth that spit out images branded with the “Let It Snow!” logo. Toward the end of the evening, a circus-inspired performance saw acrobats dangling from suspended swaths of fabric.

“Our real estate inspired several choices,” Werner said. “Many spaces lend themselves to candy canes and pine boughs, but we recognized the soaring, all-white space of Griffin Court as the idea setting for a chic, sparkling, nondenominational holiday celebration.” Heffernan Morgan Ronsley designer John Hensel handled decor, hanging star burst-like light fixtures and filling lounge areas with plush white furniture and glass lamps filled with a material that looked like sparking snow. Small lamps, encircled with rings of white roses, crowned high and low tables throughout the space. According to Werner, “Our guests felt as though they had stepped into a giant snow globe." 

Planners expect the event to return next year and beyond. “We hope this holiday party will become an annual event that people look forward to bringing their children and grandchildren to,” Werner said.

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