All That Glitters: 99x Party


Glitz and glamour will set the Springfield Art Museum aglow at this year’s 99x event.

written by tamara styer | styled by kristen lentz | photographed by matt loveland

THIS YEAR’S 99 TIMES event at the Springfield Art Museum will be a night of opulence and glamour. Guests will indulge in food, drinks and music, while enjoying art tableau displays created by several local artists, fashion designers and more. It’s an event that you won’t want to miss, acting as an outreach to the local art community as well as a fundraiser to help the art museum do what it does best.
    The Springfield Art Museum will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2018. This important staple in the local arts scene has been collecting art for almost 100 years. One of the concerns they have is how to preserve and care for this work into the next 100 years and make sure it’s available to audiences in the next generation. Part of that plan is implemented through conservation and preservation work.      
    “The idea for this event sprung out of that,” says Development and Marketing Coordinator Joshua Best. “If we do this event 99 times, we are caring for the collection for the next 99 years. And it’s also what makes it so interesting because the party theme is always intimately tied to an object at the museum. Something that has a life and a history, but also an educational purpose, and so by supporting this event, people are actually supporting our exhibitions, they’re supporting our educational programs. It’s one night of revelry, but it has a lasting impact on our visitors for years to come.”
    Set for September 30, the 99x: Gilded Coast Glamour event will be a costumed evening inspired by Luminist painter John Frederick Kensett and the glamour of Gilded Age Newport. As guests eat, drink and dance the night away, they will encounter illuminated coastal murals and enter living art tableaus featuring modern takes on the historic interiors of Newport’s radiant mansions.
The annual 99 Times event is both an answer to the museum’s funding needs as well as a much needed outreach to the local arts scene and the previously untapped younger generation.
    Joshua Best started working at Springfield Art Museum in December of 2015. Before that, he did museum and arts fundraising work for years in both Chicago and New York City. He then left that world and went back to school to get his Masters in teaching.
    “I’m actually one credit away from doing it,” he says. “I don’t even know that I’ll finish now because this position opened up and the stars aligned.”
    In 2014, Museum Director Nick Nelson wanted to gain the attention of a younger, contemporary audience. With that in mind, they came up with the first version of the 99 Times party, which was a fashion show.
    “I think it was a big challenge because this was a brand new initiative for the museum in 2014,” says Best. “They carried it off and it was really successful in the fact that it got younger people into the museum. It got people into the museum who had never been here before and got them excited about something that the museum was doing. And that traditionally hasn’t been the case. The museum has been kind of like a guarded jewel box.
    The following year, the museum put its efforts into finding someone who could market the museum to a more targeted audience, and bring a new generation into the fold through new and relevant ideas. The stars aligned indeed when they found Best.
    “I love my job,” says Best. “I actually do! Obviously New York City was a lot different. It’s a different pace and scale and scope of work, but at the same time I was never a decision maker. I was always an assistant or something like that. Here, I get to set the direction for our marketing and our fundraising efforts, and there really is no substitute for [that]. This is a completely different gig. And I love it.”
    What Best is doing for the museum and the arts community is precisely what local artists have been craving for years, and his initiatives have the potential to positively impact and unite the Springfield arts scene as a whole.
    The 99 Times event, for one, brings people together who might not have before been in the same room. With Best at the helm, along with a small planning committee, he came up with the concept for last year’s event, entitled 99x: Bohemian Belle. Instead of a fashion show, Best set out to do something different and more befitting with the aesthetic of the art museum. That year, they focused on the restoration of the Museum’s collection of Rose O’Neill’s paintings and illustrations. Along with his committee, Best came up with the idea of inviting local artists, fashion designers, magazine editors and other trendy creatives to design their own tableaus and display them throughout the museum for guests to mingle and enjoy during the event. Traditionally, a tableau is a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene from a story or from history, and to encourage variety, Best encouraged the artists to learn about and become inspired by O’Neill’s life and incredible body of work.  

Deitra model Leah Haines poses as Rose O'Neill and the looming darker side of her artistic expression.














































    Rose O’Neill, if you don’t know, was quite the lady. She was a local resident of Branson, Missouri for much of her life, and was most known in the area for creating the Kewpie Doll. But O’Neill was so much more than that. She was a huge part of the women’s suffrage movement in the 1920’s, and her art aided advertising efforts to bring women’s rights into the limelight. Her paintings ranged from the sweet images of Kewpie characters to darker illustrations of masculine asexual creatures she called “Sweet Monsters.” These paintings in particular are both chilling and deeply emotional, often depicting these dark figures entwined in a sensual embrace with a voluptuous femme. The intricate layers O’Neill revealed both as an artist and as a true bohemienne set the stage for quite the wide array of creativity displayed at the Bohemian Belle event.
    Each tableau was like stepping inside one of Rose O’Neill’s paintings or a moment from her intriguing life. It was both visually interesting and a grand time. Guests of all ages, donned in creative bohemian attire, formed a diverse crowd rarely seen before in the Springfield Art Museum. They enjoyed the food and beverage, the music and even entered the tableaus to get their selfies taken. The event was a success, and brought in a great amount of local young creative professionals who previously had never even set foot inside the museum.     
    “To actually see it happening on the evening, and see everyone show up in costume, actually doing the things that we planned out, it really just brought the party to life,” says Best. “It really made the party a reflection of who was there. It wasn’t a pre-packaged party and people didn’t just come and then leave. It was what it was because of the people who showed up.”

Deitra Magazine Editor-In-Chief, Tamara Styer, and Beauty Director, Kristen Lentz, pose by their 2016 99x tableau depicting Rose O'Neill's Bonniebrook home and her "Sweet Monsters" paintings.

    99x: Bohemian Belle was a fashionable event that got the community excited. The idea of reaching out to local fashion designers and other artists who might not have been recognized before was the key to the event’s success. It’s a testament to Best’s initiative to utilize local artists, tastemakers and trendsetters.
    “We’re starting to speak to a different audience,” he says. “That’s something that’s really exciting for us. We’re very keen to how can we attract more of it, and that’s why we did reach out to an editorial eye - people who were working in multiple disciplines - and tried to show a broad spectrum of the different kind of stylists that are working and living in the area. That helps crystallize the theme, but I also think that it helps us speak to a wide range of people and engage people. Someone may not care about fashion design, but they may have really liked the theatrical aspect, or someone might be really into the photography aspect of it. So there’s something for everyone in every little world.”
    This year’s event will raise funds to restore the glow to noted Luminist painter John Frederick Kensett’s Shore Landscape, Newport, which was acquired by the Museum in 1949. Kensett was an influential member of the Hudson River School and a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kensett’s trademark clear light and serene surfaces celebrate transcendental qualities of nature, and are associated with Luminism. Luminist landscapes were popular in the mid 1800’s, and were characterized by effects of light in landscapes, through using aerial perspective, and concealing visible brushstrokes. Luminist landscapes emphasize tranquility, and often depict calm, reflective water and a soft, hazy sky. Kensett’s Shore Landscape, Newport was literally a shining example of this recently repopularized painting style. But these days, the painting is lackluster, to say the least. The 99 Times event will ensure that this important piece is brought back to life by bringing it “back to light.”
    “The painting we’re working to conserve was painted in the 1860’s,” says Best. “It was a very traditional seascape. There’s not a ton about it that’s energizing until you look at who the artist was who created it. He was one of the founders of one of the most popular museums in the world. He was painting in a style that is incredibly popular right now with the use of light. And beyond that, we’re looking at ways that Kensett’s work can then inspire what current artists are doing through these tableaus that will be produced.”
    One of those means of inspiration is to introduce each tableau artist to the history of Newport, Rhode Island at the time Kensett painted his luminous seascape. Not only was the original painting itself aglow with lustrous whimsy, the town of Newport was the luxurious seaside playground of the notably affluent families such as the Vanderbilts, the Astors and the Rockefellers. This age of lavish parties and astoundingly rich socialites brings in an exciting new idea for this year’s event. In addition to Kensett’s seascape, the tableau artists will also gain inspiration from Newport’s grand Gilded Age mansions.

The painting in need of restoration: "Shore Landscape, Newport" by famous Luminist painter, John Frederick Kensett

























    “The amount of wealth and opulence that existed there was just unparalleled,” says Best. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to give the artists a more focused assignment this year and give them a particular interior or exterior to motivate them and inspire their interpretation?’ For example, the Cloud Ballroom from Rosecliff Mansion. But they’re using that cloud mural to inspire their fashion design. So while it is a more concrete example, it still allows for a lot of interpretation and a lot of creativity.”
    Another addition to this year’s event will be local muralists, also drawing inspiration from the Kensett painting.           
    “What I’d like to see happen this year is that we really energize the community about local artists and really give them a showcase for what they’re doing,” says Best. “We also want to invite people into the art museum and let them know that this place is for them, and there’s a way for them to make connections with what we’re doing, and a way to become involved. This region has a very distinct regional art community; it’s very traditional in a lot of instances. And then there’s a completely different art scene happening as well. Museums across the country are struggling with this relevance issue: How to stay relevant and let people know that you’re not this tomb, but you’re actually reflecting what’s going on in your art community and what’s happening locally. And this is a great way we can bridge those two worlds.”
   Joshua Best is making things happen at the Springfield Art Museum that the local art community has been craving for years, but he insists that his fellow colleagues, collaborators and committee members are the ones who deserve all the praise.
    “I would really like to give a shout out to the organizing committee for this year. Last year we did it with about five committee members. This year we have 25. So we have a lot more hands on deck, and we have a lot more people involved in making decisions, which I think people will see reflected in the event. It’s a lot more collaborative, and we’ve been able to integrate a lot more different elements.
    The 99x: Gilded Coast Glamour event will be held on September 30, and tickets go on sale August 1 for just $25. This event would not be possible without the support of the generosity of local area businesses. This year’s presenting sponsor is Esterly, Schneider & Associates, Inc.
    “They do wonderful work for the museum,” says Best, “and they’re a great supporter of this event.”

Randall Shreve (left) and LUX (right) will be provide the musical entertainment for the night


    Also sponsoring this year are Kaye Foster-Gibson and Family, Penmac Staffing and several other local businesses, including Acacia Spa and Deitra Magazine, of course! Food and beverages during the Private Sponsor Hour from 6:00pm - 7:00pm will be provided by O’Reilly Hospitality Management, Houlihan’s and Macadoodles. Sponsors will also enjoy music by solo singer/songwriter extraordinaire Randall Shreve during this time. General admission is from 7:00pm - 9:00pm with local food catering, spirits, wine and craft beer provided by Mother’s Brewing Company and music by Randall Shreve and local indie-pop duo LUX. Guests are encouraged to get inspired by the indulgent socialite parties of 1860’s Newport and arrive in opulent style!
    The muralists featured at the event will include some well-known artists in the local community, including Blake Willis Tiggemann, Marian Chamberlain and Will Knauer, to name a few. Tableau stylists will include some return artists from last year, such as Heather Kane, Jennifer Vaughn and yours truly, as well as some exciting new artists this year!
    I am personally honored to have been asked to be a tableau stylist for the second year in a row at 99 Times. With the big event coming up on September 30, not only is it time for me to begin designing my tableau inspired by this year’s Gilded Coast Glamour theme, but it’s also time for me to start shopping for that smashing dress I’ll be donning to the soirée! Join me, the Deitra Crew and all of the other fantastic creatives who will be attending in style! And be sure to show us your outfit by using #giltglam in your posts!

Deitra model Sophie Aydt poses in a gold and black tulle dress designed for the 99x party
   

There’s still time to purchase tickets this grand event! Head to sgfmuseum.org and click on “Events” to learn more.


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