Embracing the whole “Throwback Thursday” concept really can be an entertaining way to share some of the amazing events we have produced over the years. Events that exist in our memories as well as in tiny 4 x 6 photos buried in dusty boxes that rarely see the light of day! Which is a shame really, as party planners and event designers with decades of experience in conceptualizing events we are bound to have tackled most themes once, if not twice!
In today’s event scene we see the obsession with calligraphy, painting and illustration continues to dazzle and intensify, making its way into party design and scenic decor in bolder ways than just on paper. Well, like most things in life, that’s a design trend that has been tackled before. Like 15 to 20 years ago! That’s right, what’s old really is new again.
These images are from the 1998 Academy Ball Cocktail Reception hosted by CIGNA held in the rehearsal hall at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Generally, The rehearsal hall is pretty bare bones, so Evantine Design was hired to bring in everything to create the desired environment, from walls, rooms, lighting, flowers, rentals, and kitchen space. The design inspiration for the event was the post-modern theater and movie set designs from the 1930’s-1950’s which were designed to be viewed as props and not real, but at the same time to evoke a sense of place and time to transport the audience away from reality. Deep stuff, right? Absolutely.
Our theme was a town square in France, complete with café, walls, park benches, home facades, shops, street carts, and a central “fountain” that guests would wander around or gaze upon just as they would in a small town in France. All in all, we designed, illustrated and hand-painted over 100 panels which were then used to create the streets of the village. To ensure we had thought of every single detail of the town square, right down to the loaves of bread and window shades, we put up the entire set in our greenhouse (back then we did not have the warehouse and design studio we now call home) and then pulled it all apart to put it together again on site for the event. With design this specific, practice makes perfect!
Along the hallway leading into the rehearsal hall, we created an allée of faux trees in a similar illustrated manner as the sets designed for the main room. The difference being that as you passed by the trees (or upon leaving) you saw the unfinished backs with braces and location markings (and sandbags). This concept of letting the guests experience the behind the scenes AND the finished effects let the attendees feel as if they were part of the theater stage and were characters in our story.
CIGNA was a major sponsor for the Academy Ball for many years and sponsored this annual cocktail party. We transformed the space year after year to the point where it became the talk of the ball and every year, guests wondered if they would walk into a faux French town square, a serene Zen Japanese Garden, a rocking 1950’s diner or futuristic Philadelphia (among others that we created for the client).
Happy Throwback Thursday!