12/23/2011 09:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

NRDC Gala: What Are You a Part of?


A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of re-inventing the NRDC's annual Forces For Nature Gala at the Museum of Natural History, and it could not have been a more fitting location to raise awareness and funds for the incredible work that this organization does FOR ALL OF US. What does the NRDC do? They revive the world's oceans, defend endangered wildlife, they ensure safe and sufficient water, among many, many other important things to protect our natural world.

It was really important to us to make this a crackling cool evening (not an earthy/crunchy one) and with the innovative leaders of the NRDC, partnered with the evening's honorees Wendy and Eric Schmidt and Arianna Huffington, all at the forefront of digital technology, we created an evening about interconnectedness. We asked the question, "What are you a part of?"


The evening started in the Rotunda of the museum for cocktails. A wall of dry erase boards (which were donated to schools after the gala) became an interactive installation where the guests responded to the evening's question at hand.


Dinner and the program followed in the Hall of Ocean Life, and as a focal point to the room, we created a giant, open newspaper, filled with headlines and stories heralding the news of NRDC current events. Instead of printing all of the images of the "paper," some were ever-changing projections that either punctuated moments of the presentation or provided incredible eye candy emphasizing why the world is so important to protect.


Each of the dining tables were dressed in cloths printed with a collage of news items concerning the environment, all culled from the Huffington Post, traditional newspapers, and other online sources. Thus, the "news" is the conceptual and physical background texture to the room and one of the things that connects us all. The cloths were made into tote bags and given as gifts after the event.

On the dining tables, and befitting the Museum, we created gorgeous nature studies that utilized magnifying glasses and an array of bell jars holding both actual, natural jewels like berries, feathers, and succulents to invented nature -- spiders created from recycled computer keys and webs from copper wire (also salvaged from computers), to name a few. The bell jars and magnifiers were donated to schools after the event.


Designing for these kinds of evenings is a wonderful brain teaser. We start with the question, "How can we infuse the meaning of the evening into the décor?" That is a hard nut to crack, like the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, but when you do figure it out, it is such great fun! A huge thank you to our friends at the NRDC. We could not have been more honored to lead the charge on your important evening, and we thank you for the amazing work you do for us ALL. We are honored "to be a part of" YOU.

Photography by Susan Montagna.