Apparently, the year off from ArtAID did Graham Ross and Tod Ernst some creative good.
The Planet Hair owners, who are also the founders of and brains behind the over-the-top fashion show fundraiser and art auction, are bringing it back this year after a one-year hiatus intended to help them recharge their artistic batteries.
The recharge was a success, too, judging from the planned highlights Ross shared this week: performers on high-flying power stilts, a movie-themed runway show packed with Marilyn Monroes and Disney princesses, and the potential for airborne models. The event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday in a new venue: ArtAID is moving from its longtime home at the Cotillion to the larger Century II Convention Hall.
“We are hearing that people are so exited that it’s coming back,” Ross said. “I even have clients that say, ‘I can’t believe it’s an ArtAID year. I’m so pumped it’s an ArtAID year.’ ”
Back in 2010, ArtAID had grown into a 17-year-old, can’t-miss fall event that drew crowds of 1,500 to the Cotillion and raised about $115,000 a year for Positive Directions, an organization that provides support to those living with AIDS.
The centerpiece of the event was an elaborate runway show, complete with drag queens, sky-high hairdos, theatrical makeup and off-the-wall outfits. The show takes Ross and Ernst a whole year to plan, they said, and requires most of the Planet Hair staff to execute it. They needed a break, they told Positive Directions, and wanted to turn ArtAID into a biennial event.
Positive Directions, which relies on money raised from the event each year, went ahead without Ernst and Ross in 2011 and produced a similar event at the Cotillion called Art 4 Life. It included all the usual ArtAID highlights but replaced the fashion show with a burlesque revue. The event was a success but brought in a smaller amount of money, about $80,000, said Positive Directions executive director Cody Patton.
The theme of this year’s ArtAID is “Hollywood Lights,” and the show will feature several runways dedicated to different movie genres. One will pay homage to 1920s silent films such as “The Artist.” Sheplers, a new fashion partner for the event, has supplied clothes that will populate a runway that represents Western films. Other runways will depict characters from Disney films, and a World War II-era runway will feature a version of the Lindy Hop. Monroe will come to life in a tribute to movies of the 1950s.
All involved are hoping that the year off will have built anticipation among fans of ArtAID – more of whom can fit in the new venue. Though organizers loved the Cotillion, they said, its size was limiting. They capped the event at 1,500 people, and the tables still sold out so quickly that many people were left without seats. Century II allows for more seating and gives the event room to grow to as large as 3,000 to 5,000 over the years.
Century II offers several other benefits as well, Ross said, including a much larger stage, downtown visibility and riggings that make it possible for models to fly through the air and descend from the ceilings.
It does have some downsides, though. The appetizer buffet always offered at the Cotillion has been nixed. (Century II doesn’t allow outside catering, and the buffet was partially donated by Corporate Caterers.) Instead, attendees can buy movie theatre-style concessions such as popcorn, hot dogs and nachos. A cash bar also will be available.
Another change: Organizers are offering $25 tickets to those interested in seeing the runway show only. Those ticket holders will sit in the balcony area of the venue and will be allowed in after 9 p.m. The runway show starts around 9:45 p.m.
Those ticketholders will miss the live and silent auction, which always feature around 200 pieces of art as well as other packages.
The runway show will be about 50 minutes long and feature around 100 models.
Putting it all together has been an overwhelming task, even with the year of rest, Ross said. But the hard work will be noticeable to the audience.
“I know people say this all the time,” he said, “but I really think this is going to be the best show we’ve ever done.”