Brian Jacobson

Inside the MAM’s annual Bal du Lac

By - Apr 30th, 2012 04:00 am

There have been many times we’ve stepped into the grandiose, white, gleaming Windhover Hall of the Milwaukee Art Museum and felt the grace of a magical themed evening. But this past Saturday evening at the 52nd annual Bal du Lac (translated “Ball of the Lake”), many in attendance were raving about the transformation of the space.

For this year’s gala fundraiser and dance event, which saw the likes of many local corporate names like Kohl’s, Johnson Controls, and main sponsor Baker Tilly, along with many public figures, executives, and personalities like Betty Quadracci and Chris Abele, the theme was “Alice in Wonderland.”  This was a reflection on the current Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection, which is said to be a recurring pattern in this gathering of self-taught artists.

The designers and hosts Christine Fenske Eben and Eric Eben, and Laura and Jeff Lukas brought in giant inflatable mushroom and flowers illuminated by copious amounts of LED lights. Organizers had arriving guests pose in their black-tie tuxedos and formal gowns alongside Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and other Wonderland performers in a trippy, hypnotic hallway.  The main hall itself was decorated with a smiling Cheshire Cat, day-glo ottomans, high-top tables, chandelier lamps, and sported a private stock of available wines for the evening being guarded by a winsome smoking caterpillar. Copious amounts of well-placed LED lights then filled the normally white room with an aura of wonder.

The $300-a-plate event was furnished with appetizers and tapas from Shully’s Cuisine and Events, which were devoured while attendees chatted and pored over the items up for bid at silent auction. The MAM relies on members, donors, and sponsors to come up with $8 million a year to bolster the $14.1 million in operating expenses for one of the city’s shining jewels and educational meccas*. The Bal du Lac was certainly the place to put a face to these names we often see only on a wall or wing of the museum.

TCD got an exclusive look at this year’s event, and we have chronicled it through select images below in our slideshow.  To visit the whole set, you can visit our flickr set hereAccidental Genius closes after this week, at which time there is a pause in feature exhibitions, although there are special exhibits by Tara Donovan (watch TCD this week for a preview and interview by Tom Strini), Isaac Julien’s True North, and one of the new Kohl’s art education rooms feature art at the movies through animation. The next feature exhibit starts June 1 with The Posters of Paris.

0 thoughts on “Gallery: Inside the MAM’s annual Bal du Lac”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always wondered what these balls were like! They’re generally shrouded in expensive mystery!

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