Whose Idea Was That? Dallas Museum of Art presents "Downtown Artsy"
Untitled: Art Ball 2013 was the 48th annual Art Ball dinner and auction to support the Dallas Museum of Art’s (DMA) mission of engaging and educating the community. Held on April 13, 2013, and presented by the Dallas Museum of Art and The Headington Companies on behalf of The Joule Hotel & Retail, it raised $2.25 million, with funds benefiting the DMA for the museum’s programs, special exhibitions, and collection, and, as of this year, free general admission. In this inaugural "Whose Idea Was That?" post, we asked Untitled: Art Ball co-chairs Jennifer Karol and Catherine Rose to talk about the sponsor thank-you video they made, which you can see here.
As co-chairs of one of the DMA's largest annual fundraisers, now honing in on its 50th anniversary, we knew we didn't want to do traditional "B-roll" of sponsors to thank them for their support, but to credit them in an unforgettable way. We also knew that humor would be center-stage, and that we wanted a night filled with unpredictable and unexpected moments (two of the many “un” words we used to describe the event).
The idea for the video sparked last summer after watching the Opening Ceremony to the London Olympics when the Queen and "James Bond"(Daniel Craig) made a hilarious entrance into Olympic Stadium. This spoof caught everyone off guard, made us all laugh, and set a tone for the Summer Games. From that moment on, we both knew we wanted to do our own parody as a way to tell a story about the DMA and Dallas. We just weren't quite sure how it would materialize.
Downtown Artsy came to be in a brainstorming session in mid-February with the producer Bob Hess when we decided that Downton Abbey was the perfect vehicle. People of all ages (i.e., Art Ball guests) watch the show. And even those who don’t watch still have some awareness of it because it's such a current cultural phenomenon. It also allowed us to cast characters---from museum leadership to the city’s Mayor Mike Rawlings---to tell the fantastic story about the DMA’s return to free general admission and what that means for the city of Dallas. Art Ball proceeds will support free general admission for the community, and we wanted everyone to feel great about their contributions toward this vital initiative.
We worked up a storyline with Bob and brainstormed how to cleverly insert the most product placements possible for all of our generous sponsors. Bob wrote the script and we edited, edited, edited---telling a whole story that, in the end, was about five minutes long!
We filmed Downtown Artsy in the very swank penthouse of the nearby Joule Hotel from 3:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on April 2. The hotel staff was beyond helpful---setting up the dining table with beautiful dinner place settings, and more. We had hair, we had makeup, and we had costumes (from Dallas Children's Theater, Dallas Theater Center, and our own closets).
By 11:00 p.m., we were getting pretty silly. None of us are actors, so Bob and his team had their work cut out for them, and they were just fantastic. Bob would instruct, "Say this line just like this...," and then the “actor” would repeat it verbatim. And Bob would coach and correct and cajole. Repeat, repeat, repeat---until he got a few takes he could work with.
Philanthropist, longtime DMA patron, and now scene-stealer Margaret McDermott was filmed separately over lunch the following day. She’s 101, has been a DMA trustee for over 50 years, and required only two takes, nailing her lines perfectly.
The following week was spent editing as well as filming the opening scenes, which were beautifully lit to truly capture that Downton Abbey feeling. We think the cameramen watched every single episode in preparation. They made the magic happen.
Hearing people laugh and clap at the premiere during Art Ball, and now seeing Downtown Artsy on YouTube and the BBC America website, has just been too much fun. It set a perfect tone at the beginning of the event, and you could feel people having a great time. But the most satisfaction came last week when a friend in New York City, who had not attended Art Ball, watched the YouTube clip and called us to share that she now knows every single sponsor for Art Ball. We worked really hard to pull it off---and it was so worth it!
Jennifer Karol is a Dallas-based philanthropist and longtime supporter of the Dallas arts community.
Catherine Rose, a Dallas native, has been a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Art since 2003.