While there is an incredible diversity of local nonprofits, cultural institutions and charitable organizations in town, it can be hard to find an annual gala on the calendar that truly reveals an organization’s character. Between the now standard dinners and requisite live auctions replete with good intentions, I find myself looking for more tangible expressions of an organization’s ineffable qualities. Galas always beg the question: How can an organization not just honor but embody its mission?
With this in mind, Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design has found something special in its annual gala, MakersBall — an event that raises money for scholarships and community outreach programs. Having attended the event at the Caramel Room at Bissinger’s last year, I was floored by their insistence that local craft be not just on view but something that could be actively experienced. Scattered throughout the Caramel Room were a number of regionally and nationally celebrated artists, all of them instructors or staff members at Craft Alliance. But these artists were not just mingling — they were working. Potters manned pottery wheels, throwing large bowls in front of our eyes. Across the warmly lit room, a glass artist used a torch to melt brightly colored glass into stunning beads. A weaver sat at a loom, working on an intricate tapestry fit for a museum, and a metalsmith sat at a bench working on intimate brooches. It was Craft in practice, and the MakersBall was a chance to enter the studios with a cocktail in hand. As the artists worked, they fielded questions, joked with guests and gave us the opportunity to engage with the culture of making that Craft Alliance has come to embody.
This culture of Craft did not end with demos, however; Craft Alliance has seen to it that this emphasis on process has permeated every aspect of the event. Crafted Confections, the Alliance’s version of a late-night party, which followed the more traditional dinner and live auction components of the evening, featured representatives from local distilleries and breweries, who walked guests through thoughtful pairings of regional spirits with some of Bissinger’s tantalizing chocolates. The emphasis was on the crossroads of experience and education, and it turned what could have been a simple after-dinner cocktail into a carnival for the senses.
You can be sure, I have already purchased my ticket for this year’s MakersBall, once again at the Caramel Room. There are innumerable organizations that deserve support this season, but one can give without attending a gala. So why attend this party? At times, a gala can be a chance to give back — this one is an opportunity to experience how an organization impacts lives.
Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design’s Makersball is March 10. For more information and tickets, visit craftalliance.org/makersball. M