Gallery ball has guests turning Japanese

The National Gallery transformed the Governor’s ballroom at the Westin Casuarina Resort last Saturday night for its annual fundraising ball which, this year, had a Japanese theme, invoking the popular movie Memoirs of a Geisha.

Guests fully embraced the theme, showing off their creativity in a variety of costumes, from the elaborate and authentic to the subtle, and handmade Japanese fans were presented to each guest upon arrival.

Sake and fruit punch were also offered to guests during the Cocktail Hour, which took place outside on the lawn in front of the Westin’s ballroom. A replica of the wooden bridge shown in the film Memoirs of a Geisha and a replica of a teahouse had both been built by prisoners specifically for the event.

The bridge, lit with atmospheric red floodlights, served as the backdrop for portraits shot by Courtney Platt. As guests crossed the bridge, they were asked to pose at the end for a portrait which was then available for purchase for $10.

National Gallery staff members carried around bamboo rods with paper lanterns, which comprised the lantern pick fundraiser. Lanterns were $25 each and had more than a 75 per cent chance of containing a numbered ticket, which matched a prize.

A table full of items comprised the silent auction, which was a popular event with many guests returning to the table throughout the night to outbid someone else for coveted articles. Donations to the silent auction table included paintings from local artists that were specifically designed for the evening, including Japanese-themed portraits and creations.

Larger paintings were also available via live auction, which was conducted by emcee Jay Ehrhart later on in the evening. Paintings included canvasses by recently-exhibited artist Seth Chwast, Avril Ward, April Bending, Joanne Sibley, Maureen Lazarus, Randy Chollette, Gordon Solomon, Chris Mann, Zoe Blount, Dora Williams and Nasaria Suckoo-Chollette.

Once inside, the Japanese treats continued coming. Guests found their seats at their tables thanks to place cards which gave everyone a Japanese ‘name’ by adding ‘-san’ onto the end. Zen gardens provided a Japanese feel to the table settings.

Edamame, or soy beans, were served to whet the appetites of guests in anticipation of the five-course Japanese meal to come.

To form the first two courses of an appetiser and salad, waiters presented a plate of shrimp or pork Japanese dumplings (also known as gyoza) with sweet chilli and soy sauces. The salad was composed of field greens, cucumber and tomatoes with a ginger soy dressing.

The soup course, a cup of miso soup with fish sausage and baked tofu, was shortly followed by the main course of Japanese-style barbecued beef with sesame ginger and green onion, teriyaki-grilled salmon with shitake mushrooms and Japanese-style wok-charred rice with vegetables.

The dessert saw a rice flour cake with vanilla cream served with Sake Anglaise and green tea mousse with anko, a sweet bean glaze.

During dinner, entertainment was provided by Barnes Dance Academy. Stephen Nickelson, this year’s intern at the Gallery, performed alongside fellow dance students Inara Myles, Chloe Dacosta and Anne-Marie Stephens in a Japanese-inspired modern dance. The dance presentation was Mr. Nickelson’s idea, as he is an avid dancer in his spare time. Cayman Associated Schools of Karate rounded out the entertainment with a performance of a powerful demonstration of a Wado sword form.

Gallery Director Nancy Barnard also took to the podium to thank the team of volunteers and ball committee for their work on the event, the event’s sponsors Butterfield Bank, International Financial Planning and Queensgate, and the assistance of the Westin in donating certain services to help make the evening more profitable for the Gallery’s education and outreach programmes.

Natalie Coleman, deputy director at the Gallery, spoke on behalf of the National Gallery staff in thanking the organisers.

‘We wish to say a huge thanks to Nancy and her volunteer committee who organised and executed the entire event,’ she said.

Mrs. Barnard was also delighted with the event.

‘I was very happy with the way this year’s fundraising ball went,’ she said. ‘Mrs. Mariko Jack, our Outreach Patron, pulled the winning ticket for the door prize which was won by Sally Allison. It was a pleasure to see so many guests enjoying the opportunity to dress in costume, and revel in the art and cuisine of a different culture.

‘I am so grateful to our three underwriting sponsors: Butterfield Private Banking, International Financial Planning (Cayman) Ltd. and Queensgate Bank.’

The ball was also a success financially, helping to benefit the Gallery’s outreach and education programmes.

‘We reached our goal of raising over $,’ said Mrs. Barnard.

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