Sunday, June 15, 2008

From the Statesman

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Art Ball at the Long Center

One guest leaned in to whisper: “I said this all along: The lobby is too small.” My reply: “That was deliberate. And I’m sure the planners would stick by their decision today.”

Faced with a devastating bust just when they were making fundraising headway in the first years of this century, the backers of the Long Center for the Performing Arts were forced to make some hard choices. They delayed a planned mid-size auditorium (a prescient decision, given the early parking problems and race to fill the Dell Hall’s calendar with books-balancing touring shows) and a rehearsal facility (the ballet and opera already operate dedicated spaces, so that leaves the symphony without a first-class place to rehearse).

And, besides scrapping an overly ambitious Skidmore Owings and Merrill design, they opted for the “indoor-outdoor” approach to a grand lobby. Most new performing arts centers apply more space to their lobbies than to the stage and auditorium combined, but the Long Center’s seers understood that a plaza defined by the old Palmer ring would make an irresistible magnet for intermissioners and partiers, especially if, as at Austin Museum of Art’s Art Ball on Friday, one staged special acts like light shows out there, and you kept the patrons well refreshed with food and/or drink.

So while the initial silent auction and cocktail gathering felt a bit crowded inside the first floor lobby, there was the donor lounge upstairs for dining and the plaza for everything else. It’s a social hit. We spoke at some length with AMOA’s new development director, Tom Jackson, just in from Reno, who seemed to understand the challenges and rewards ahead of his organization as they raise money for a downtown museum, that, like the Long Center is fiscally responsible and can be expanded in stages.


Jay Menna and event chairwoman Collen Cole


AMOA’s Director of Marketing & Public Relations Shilpa Bakre with Jon Hamlin


Mary Sledd, Scott Owens


Robin Bagley, Elisa Botello

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