BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
What if an international event planner – known for its extraordinary celebrations for Beyonce, the New York High Line, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, and Pamela Harriman – not only helped design your advantage, but brought its irresistible sense of hospitality said event? What if his close friend, an interior designer with festive status, brought her personal touch to the evening?
Well, then you have to think of Bronson van Wyck and Alessandra Branca and next month’s Chicago Show: Antiques & Art & Modern hosted by the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital at the Merchandise Mart. The opening night, which will take place on October 6, will raise funds for the hospital. The show itself, produced annually by Dolphin Promotions, runs until October 9 and features 50 leading national and international dealers in antique furniture, jewelry, silver, decorative art and fine art. , old up to 20e century.
Master of Celebrations couldn’t be a better title for van Wyck, author of the bestselling Born to party, forced to work, who, together with Branca, herself a famous interior designer, will welcome the guests. The two will host a special “Shop the Show” preview this afternoon where van Wyck promises to “find the gems and write down their stories”, and share entertainment tips the next day during the main lunch (and discuss tips and anecdotes from his book). Their combined expertise has taken the creative direction to new heights for Opening Night and their advice on what true hospitality is will be a lasting reflection for all guests who have the pleasure of meeting these two event and design luminaries. .
Suzette Bulley, Opening Night Chair, will also welcome guests; co-chairs Beth Hughes, Keevie Silvay and Heather Webster; and Holly Cortes, President of the Women’s Council.
Bulley shares: “I had heard wonderful things about Bronson and his fabulous parties and was thrilled when Alessandra suggested he team up with her for our party. Alessandra and I went to benefit the High Line in New York last spring, and I was surprised to learn that he not only started the benefit party but was one of the founding members of the High Line. He was so involved that the mayor of New York stopped by the cool event to personally thank Bronson for his role in creating this groundbreaking park.
“Both Alessandra and Bronson are such visionaries: both think outside the box and have been so generous with their knowledge and time!” She adds. “I am incredibly grateful for the gift of their vision. I got a taste of their concepts and am blown away by their ideas. I urge everyone to take the time to see what creative minds at the top of their game can produce!”
We caught up with van Wyck as he packed Labor Day weekend for a birthday dinner and dance he had planned at a Roman palace with Caravaggio frescoes on the ceiling. It was her hospitality story that captivated us instantly.
“I grew up in the Arkansas Delta on a farm 100 miles equidistant from Little Rock and Memphis at the end of a long road. If anyone made the effort to come see us, we worked hard to reciprocate. I was raised to show my appreciation,” he explains.
A graduate of Groton and Yale, van Wyck began his career as a protocol assistant to Ambassador Pamela Harriman in Paris, where he was responsible for nightly diplomatic receptions at the American Embassy: “Hospitality is about making people feel good is true regardless in all cultures of the country. It is based on the need for civilizations to safely interact with strangers across horizons or within households.
While Van Wick gloats about his upcoming role with Branca – being “the elves behind the curtains” – and says he’s never stressed out about his job, he admits maybe public speaking gives him pause. . Thus, bringing intimacy to even the most intimidating events, creating an inviting setting, the guide: “The participants are there for several reasons, some supporters of the organization, others there simply to see the Show. What you’re trying to do is create intimate spaces where people can have fun and tip the scales. At the same time, people want drama and a sense of theater.
“When you welcome someone, you first want to make sure their physical needs are met. Is the person cold or hungry? Give them what they need and a smile,” he continues. “Customers want to see a happy host, not stressed. If you’re having 40 people and you’re cooking, don’t serve soufflés. Don’t spend your time behind the bar, if you don’t have a bartender, make punch. In the winter, I always have cider on the stove, even if I don’t serve it. It still smells so good.”
Van Wyck has been creating unique origin cocktails for many of its events for many years and recently decided to turn that talent into a business, creating a range of its delicious and unexpected blends in canned cocktails. Called Dio, after Dionysus, with a slogan “nectar of the gods”, the original production line sold out in just seven weeks. This holiday season, Dio will launch a line of mixers that, like its cocktails, feature herbs, spices and splashes of lemon juice among other natural flavors.
Even before the libations are served, he believes that it all starts with the lighting: “You also have to make sure that there is really good lighting and that all the wares are seen,” he says. “Plus, you have to talk to all five senses if you’re doing it really well. The feel of a beautiful textured fabric for towels and music, but so other sounds can be heard.
Van Wyck explains that his motto for events is Never complain, never justify“Never tell your guests what happened, they want to see you have a good time.” He shares this fantastic anecdote to illustrate this creed: “The hostess had invited around 250 people to a party in Saint-Tropez and the restaurant staff were so overwhelmed by the number of guests that they never made it to the main course. ; they just couldn’t pull it off.
“The hostess never broke her stride. She ordered shots for all the guests and then led them onto the dance floor. She then called an excellent pizzeria nearby. They served pizza in boxes on the dance floor and it was great to soak up all the booze. The party lasted until 4am and 95% of guests thought it was done on purpose.
“I don’t know about you, but if I have another baked halibut, I’ll grow gills. The pizza was much more fun!”
Van Wyck notably plans to share “Shop the Show” tasks with Branca: “I look for things that have a story. In addition to being beautiful to look at, they must have a little something extra. I was a student of history and art history, and I want to know something that happened in the past to the creator. I am also on a budget and enjoy it. We will definitely highlight gems that might be overlooked at first glance.
These special treasures are sure to abound at Chicago’s largest antiques and modernism fair, attracting thousands of visitors. This year, the focus will be on 20e-century design, focusing on mid-century modernity, with the return of Studio Sonja Milan and Glen Leroux Antiques as well as the addition of Modern State Atelier and The Art of Time.
Young collectors under 35 can buy a discounted ticket for the opening night at 6:30 p.m. Young Collector presidents Lucia Steinwold, Tyler Arnfelt and Emily Sturgess are planning an Afterparty that will begin at 8:30 p.m. and continue until 10:00 p.m.
And one last tip from van Wyck for all party planners: “Whatever you do, don’t run out of ice cream.
The Chicago Show will be open to the public on Friday, October 7 (11-8), Saturday, October 8 (11-6), and Sunday, October 9 (12-4). Admission to the Chicago Show is $25 per person and includes access to the show all weekend and a catalog of shows. For more information and an up-to-date list of exhibitors, visit thechicagoshow.net or email [email protected].
For tickets to events on October 6 and 7, including opening night, go to www.wbnorthwestern.org or contact the Woman’s Board office at 312-926-9138. A portion of ticket proceeds will be donated to programs supported by the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.