Paper Lanterns, Mexican Cuisine Among Vibrant Cultural Touches at First LA Plaza Gala
The anticipated LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes—a center of Mexican American culture and arts on more than two acres, with a focus on the Mexican American experience in Los Angeles and Southern California—will open its doors this coming weekend, and the centerpiece among kickoff events was an inaugural gala dinner on Saturday. Special event officer Barnaby Murff and public relations and marketing officer Katie Dunham oversaw the event, tapping Vanessa Gonzalez with Fox on the Run to be executive producer handling creative direction, design, and production.
"The event was designed to tell a story that unfolds as the evening progresses, taking each guest through a journey of history, tradition, and identity," said Gonzalez. This was one of the biggest events for the former MOCA event chief since she launched her company after cuts at the museum. "The evening highlighted people who have helped shape and define the Mexican and Mexican American culture in Los Angeles, as well as the new generation only beginning to make its mark. I designed the event much like a curator would put together an exhibition. There was a story that needed to be told and celebrated."
For the entrance and path from cocktails to dinner, the Los Angeles River served as a metaphor symbolizing the beginning of Los Angeles, LA Plaza, and the event. Deep blue and rippling-water light patterns echoed onto the pathway leading into the event, cocktails, and dinner tent. The bright canopy collage in LA Plaza's garden was the inspiration for the overall color design throughout. Multicolored lighting was meant to represent the dynamic multicultural facets of the city. Organic and eco-friendly decor furniture, which underscores LA Plaza’s efforts to instill the importance of conservation, filled the space. Greenbar was the liquor sponsor, providing organic vodka and tequila. During cocktails, guests were invited to view LA Plaza’s inaugural exhibition, “LA Starts Here!”
The 500-guest dinner took place under a 230-foot-long tent on Main Street in front of the new building. The overall palette was white, with pops of color throughout the room, used in the chairs, chargers, and glasses. "The goal was to keep everything simple and minimal and bring out the vibrant hues of color with lighting," said Gonzalez. "We engaged Mexican American artist Tanya Aguiñiga to create the paper lantern installation for the event. The paper was meant to take on the changing spectrum of colors, playing to the effect of a lit chandelier."
For the food, the idea was to integrate both traditional and modern Mexican flavors to represent L.A. Mexican cuisine. Four Mexican restaurants from various parts of L.A. set up pop-up restaurants during cocktails. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of Border Grill catered dinner, representing the new wave of modern Mexican cuisine. Mexican American winery Ceja Wines from Napa provided the wines. All the floral arrangements in both cocktails and dinner were flowers and plants made up from the six native Southern California ecosystems. And the musical entertainment comprised an eclectic group of Mexican American musicians and DJs whose roots can all be traced back to Los Angeles. Most were artists who live and work in town, and Grammy winner Julieta Venegas performed an intimate acoustic set.
The event was a ticketed fund-raising gala that honored L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, with LA Plaza board member Eva Longoria serving as the honorary gala chair. Attendees included celebrities, entertainers, speakers, philanthropists, cultural leaders, and government officials.
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