Scene and Heard: Visionary Art Museum gala
( Brendan Cavanaugh, The Baltimore Sun / March 31, 2012 )
The atmosphere in the American Visionary Art Museum ballroom felt festively French, as several hundred folks gathered for the Ooo La La Gala, the museum's biggest annual benefit, hosted by Lois Feinblatt and Carolyn Patty Blum.
With Sophie Flack, a former New York City Ballet dancer and author of the novel "Bunheads" as one of the guest hosts, the requested attire was "tutu chic." So, tutu-like dresses and berets were in abundance, as many guests got into the wacky spirit that always surrounds an AVAM party.
Flack led the way with a tutu-inspired dress designed by friend Rachel Antonoff, made of glittery black tulle.
Valerie Williams, Center for Emerging Media executive director, went more for the French side of the dance world, in layered red and black crinolines topped with a corset top.
"I really wanted to do the can-can thing," she said, as her husband, Marc Steiner, WEAA radio talk show host, beamed.
While not necessarily French or dance-inspired, Ted Frankel, owner of AVAM's Sideshow gift shop and Bill Gilmore, Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts executive director, kept up their tradition of wearing creative outfits to museum events. They each sported crazily patterned silk-screened velvet jackets.
However, when it came to costumes, there was no one who topped Jenny Campbell, Baltimore-based artist; Victoria August, Thompson Reuters sales consultant; and Kristin Edwards, Maryland Office Interiors interior designer. Campbell was dressed as an over-the-top Marie Antoinette -- complete with a wig more than 3-feet high -- with August and Edwards as her equally zany ladies in waiting.
"We participate in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade each year," said Campbell. "These were our costumes last year."
What many guests probably found the most interesting sights of the evening weren't costumes, but the party's other guest host -- actor Josh Charles, star of the TV series "The Good Wife" and Baltimore native, and his guest, John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens head coach, who was there with his wife, Ingrid Harbaugh, community volunteer.
However, both Charles and Harbaugh were quick to turn their own focus on the museum itself.
"I love what this museum stands for, the artistic spirit and the self-taught artist," said Charles. "There's no museum like it in the world, and it should be celebrated."
"It's incredible," said John Harbaugh. "We can't wait to bring our daughter here. She's 10."
"I feel like this museum is unique because of how you think about the artist behind the piece, instead of just thinking about art on its own," Flack added.
The celebrity guests weren't alone in singing the museum's praises.
:"This is the best place," Chickie Grayson, Enterprise Homes president/CEO, told AVAM founder/director Rebecca Hoffberger.
"I don't easily like parties," said Joseph Sheppard, Baltimore and Italy-based artist. "But, this one is good. It's more interesting than most."
"I wouldn't miss one of these parties for anything. They're the best in Baltimore," said his wife, Rita St. Clair, Baltimore-based interior designer.
-- Sloane Brown