It was a nod to the traditions of the past and the promises of the future.

It was a nod to the traditions of the past and the promises of the future.

The annual Art Ball, one of the region’s most elegant affairs, was held Saturday night, June 8, at the Dayton Art Institute.

The sold-out gala was a blend of time-honored rituals and fresh new ideas, the result of a year of meticulous planning by the museum’s associate board, a volunteer group of 32 couples who serve four-year terms.

This year’s chairpersons, Lisa and Michael Sandner of Springboro, chose a futuristic theme when they picked John Safer’s dramatic sculpture “Pathway” as the centerpiece for the night. It was the first time an outdoor sculpture had been selected for the ball’s theme, which they titled “Art is in the Air.”

The polished steel sculpture, which towers nearly 70 feet over the DAI grounds, greeted guests who were escorted into the museum by airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Installed in 2003 as part of the centennial of flight, the sculpture suggests man’s pathway into space.

Lisa Sandner said they were looking for a piece of art that was “bold and unique” but said they were also attracted to the sculpture because it referenced the past and the Wright Brothers. When they saw a photo of the sculpture at sunset, they knew that was the color scheme they wanted to capture for the gala — pinks, purples and blues against a backdrop of midnight blue, her husband explained.

Towering floral centerpieces throughout the museum incorporated roses, hydrangia, peonies and orchids. Tables were covered in midnight blue with silver overlays.

Gowns were definitely varied — a mix of short and long. And although there were some brighter hues, the most prevalent choice of color was black.

New this year

New elements added to this year’s party included an online raffle that was open to the public for the first time and a VIP cocktail reception that offered guests the opportunity to see a special piece of art not usually on view — Edgar Degas’ “After the Bath.”

“Degas loved to look at women but only from a distance,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, curator of collections and exhibitions, who spoke about the artist and the artwork to those assembled for the pre-party event.

Mary Montgomery of Dayton, dressed for the occasion in a strapless silk gown in sunset hues of oranges and yellows, said she and her husband come to the Art Ball every year.

“It’s really all about the art, so it’s nice to hear an explanation of a piece of art and not just hear about the dancing, dining and dresses,” she said.

Ken and Mimi Kuntz of Centerville have attended the ball for the past 40 years, and said they were happy to see so many young people attending.

“Jane (Black) and Michael (Roediger) are just fabulous!” Mimi Kuntz said about the new team of directors leading the museum.

Traditions preserved

Among the Art Ball traditions that was preserved was the rare opportunity to be served dinner in the galleries surrounded by beautiful art. At last year’s event, food stations were given a try but patrons were quick to point out that standing in lines for the various courses wasn’t a good match for what’s arguably the Miami Valley’s fanciest event.

This year’s 825 attendees remained in their seats to dine on English cucumber-wrapped greens with tomato and mozzarella, sun-dried tomato horseradish-crusted tenderloin, crab-topped sea bass, an asparagus bundle, risotto cake with roasted corn and parmesan, and a fruit-filled brandy lace cup. The event was catered by Kohler’s.

After dinner, guests enjoyed live music and specialty martinis. In the Gothic Cloister, they danced the electric slide with the Jazz Central Jammers; in the outdoor Hale Cloister the weather cooperated for a Twilight Garden and the music and dancing with Catch 22.

The list of notables attending included Congressman Mike Turner and his guest, Teresa Huber. Dave Melin, regional president of PNC Bank — presenting sponsor of the event — stressed the importance of the arts to the community and its connection to economic development.

“We’re here to support the arts in Dayton,” Judge Barbara Gorman said. “And this is a fun way to do it.”

One hundred prizes — each valued at $100 or more — were raffled throughout the night with video monitors scrolling through the list of winners as they were announced. Money raised by this year’s Art Ball will go into the museum’s general operating fund. Last year’s Art Ball raised more than $100,000 for the museum, and organizers say they are hoping to raise approximately the same amount this year.

Lisa Sandner said she and her husband also felt a connection with John Safer, the sculptor who created “Pathways.”

“He never formally studied art, but drew inspiration from his life experiences, including time in the US Air Force and his wife, Joy,” Mrs. Sandner said. “His philosophy is to use sculpture to capture a moment of beauty in time, and isn’t that what the DAI provides? A collection of beautiful moments captured for the community.”

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©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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