Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Staten Island
Here in Staten Island we’re very proud of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, the largest, ongoing adaptive reuse project in America. It comprises 28 historical buildings—including several New York City landmarks—on a unique 83-acre campus. Formerly a home for retired sailors built in the 1800s, Snug Harbor is now a distinguished regional arts center where history, architecture, visual art, theater, dance, music, environmental science, and botanical gardens provide dynamic experiences for all ages. Snug Harbor, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is also home to the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, the Snug Harbor Artist Residency Program (SHARP), the Noble Maritime Collection, Staten Island Children’s Museum, and the Staten Island Museum. Each year the Snug Harbor Center holds a major benefit event, the Neptune Ball, named for the magnificently restored 1892 fountain on the East Lawn, which depicts the sea god atop a serpent, his spear poised to strike.
The Neptune Fountain on the East Lawn of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center
My firm, American & International Designs, was asked to design one of the tables at this year’s ball, which was held on Saturday, June 2nd. Our table, which was eco-friendly and featured reused and repurposed products, had a technological theme with some items selected from our online store. These included a Frameless Oval Contemporary Mirror and a Small White Swirl Pedestal Vase. Other items included Wired wallcovering by Designtex, Three Ring Circuits by Debby Arem Designs on Etsy, and TerraCycle Circuit Board Frames from DwellSmart.
Susan Huckvale Arann’s technology-inspired table setting for the Neptune Ball
At the Neptune Ball. Photograph by Bill Lyons
In an earlier post I described my plans for the two place settings I was creating for the NYDC‘s table at the DIFFA Dining by Design Gala Dinner last week. The theme was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and I got to design vignettes for two dream guests of my choice—burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee and fashion maestro Alexander McQueen. Other “guests” at the table included Madeleine Castaing, Coco Chanel, Cleopatra, Salvador Dali, Tony Duquette, Elvis, Farrah Fawcett, Hiroshige, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, Freddie Mercury, Emilio Pucci, Elizabeth Taylor, Tintin, Andy Warhol, and Eva Zeisel—what a fabulous crew! And the roster of designers responsible for that lineup was equally terrific: Thomas Burak, West Chin, Etienne Coffinier and Ed Ku, Kati Curtis, Vanessa Deleon, Jessica Geller and Virginia Toledo, Drew McGukin, and Robert Passal. As always, the event was a huge success, with lots of wildly inventive decor on show. Here are some photos of our super-eclectic table.
NYDC’s eclectic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” table at DIFFA’s Dining by Design Gala, March 2012. ©Linked Ring Photography
The table had settings for 18 guests as diverse as Cleopatra and Steve Jobs, all with one thing in common—they were no longer alive. Individual vignettes—from the chair itself to the tabletop and props—represented each personality. ©Linked Ring Photography
The place setting I designed for the great fashion maestro Alexander McQueen. ©Linked Ring Photography
McQueen’s tablescape included Versace dinnerware and a bejeweled skull from 1stdibs@NYDC. ©Linked Ring Photography
For 14 years, the New York Design Center has served as a local sponsor for DIFFA’s annual Dining by Design extravaganza. This year NYDC is using more than one designer to bring their table concept to life, and I’m delighted to have been invited to be one of the participants. The theme is “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” and we’ve each been asked to design two table settings that portray two of our dream dinner guests from the past.
The first guest I’ve chosen is Gypsy Rose Lee (1911–1970), the fabulous burlesque entertainer and diseuse. She was famous for her witty striptease act in which she delivered a satirical monologue while nonchalantly disrobing.
Gypsy Rose Lee, the peerless burlesque entertainer, in the 1930s
Lee was also a talented writer, and her best-selling 1957 memoir, Gypsy, which began as a childhood reminiscence in The New Yorker, inspired the Jule Styne–Stephen Sondheim musical. It’s still a riveting read.
Gypsy Rose Lee’s 1957 memoir recounts her beginnings in vaudeville, introduces “Mama Rose”—the ultimate stage mother—to the world, and was the basis of the Jule Styne–Stephen Sondheim musical, Gypsy.
Some of the elements I’ll use for the Gypsy Rose Lee table setting will include a gilded black-and-white striped chair, draped with a fur boa and hot-pink fishnet fabric, Hermès dinner plates in their elegant Fil d’Argent pattern, and Saint-Louis crystal from the intricately patterned “Thistle Gold” collection, which dates back to 1913 and is mouth-blown and hand-engraved.
Gypsy Rose Lee’s place setting will feature “Thistle Gold” crystal by Saint-Louis.