The Sky is the Limit
By Phil Cooper
Stretching eastward into the depths of Lake Michigan, the Adler Planetarium offers panoramic views of the iconic Chicago skyline. It was here that Event Creative would produce an event called Wondrous Worlds for the annual Women’s Board Gala. Their inspiration for this year’s event? Avatar.
In recent memory, no other film has fired up my imagination as much so the creative process began immediately with a brainstorming meeting between Event Creative’s team of designers, sales staff, and executive management. We all agreed that we wanted to take this opportunity to showcase our company’s full capabilities in design and production and create a finely tuned event that was both memorable and unique.
The Adler: A perfect venue for an event with an Avatar Theme
Three hundred and fifty guests began their evening with cocktails in Café Galileo’s and the exterior Lake Michigan terraces of the Adler Planetarium on a Saturday evening. Donors then dined throughout the museum in five separate spaces where they participated in a live auction and then returned after sunset to Café Galileo’s soaring atrium for music, entertainment, and dancing.
The layout of the museum presented several design challenges. Because patrons were divided throughout the Planetarium, it was important to make sure that all of the guests felt they were part of the same event.
The selected theme actually made this very easy. It was determined that in order to represent the feeling desired by the Women’s Board, we had to have an incredible guest table centerpiece that captured the exotic flora images from the epic James Cameron movie. We did not think a “traditional” arrangement would do. So we called on our head floral designer, David Gould. As Creative Director, I gave him two directions to work from: steel risers and upside down bromeliad plants.David ran with this and incorporated not only the steel and bromeliads, but also orchids, mossy vines, gnarly grape wood, carnivorous plants, maiden hair ferns, colored gems, glass bowls and LED acolytes. The final creation of three alternating tabletop designs was out of this world and a total success. By alternating the rolling landscape of centerpieces and color blocking each of the rooms with one of BBJ Linens' twist fabrics we were able to enhance the existing décor and exhibits by transforming each one into its own world.
Cafe Galileo’s presented another challenge. Guests were going to spend a lot of time in this space so we had to mask the existing cafeteria-styled kiosk on the west wall of the building. We knew we did not want traditional pipe and drape, so we decided to take this opportunity to exhibit some of our scenic video capabilities.
With the aid of a handful of 3K projectors and LED lights, we were able to wash the entire surface in animated video and light. We also wanted to take advantage of the high atrium ceilings with décor. Our team of artists utilized large round steel spheres and wrapped them with strands of acrylic beaded crystal garlands. The garland absorbed LED light extremely well and added to the luminescent glow found in the Avatar movie.
One of the major scenic elements from the movie that we wanted to incorporate was the Tree of Souls.
To accomplish this, we sculpted two large tree structures from aluminum tubing, aluminum screening and acrylic opalescent crystal strands to enhance the weeping willow look. We then installed these “trees” over LED lights to allow the color-absorbent aluminum materials to change color throughout the evening.
The greatest accomplishment of the event was the synergy between all of the departments within our company. Teamwork defined our showcase goal: the ability to design and execute a fabulous event that focused on our lighting, sound and video capabilities, along with the fabric, floral, furniture and art departments.
Making things was always a part of Phil Cooper’s childhood growing up in a small town in Michigan. His passion for creating and love of the outdoors led him to attend college in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he studied Scenic Design and Directing. Phil moved to Chicago where he worked for the Four Seasons Hotel for several years, eventually leaving to follow his passion and join Event Creative in 2008. In 2010, he took the reins of the company’s Creative Director.
Photos by Josh Sears