- Michael Barnes American-Statesman Staff
Sherry Matthews knew exactly how to stage a fitting tribute to her late companion, leading Austin architect Dick Clark.
She and her team gathered almost 1,000 of Clark’s admirers at the Paramount Theatre. She drafted former University of Texas School of Architecture Dean Fritz Steiner to lend the event extra dignity and stature. She spared a few minutes for leaders who graciously recognized Clark’s legacies to UT students, to cancer research and to what he called his family: his firm, which has produced some of the city’s best designers and buildings, especially in the realm of restaurants and bars but also splendid modern residences.
Yet Matthews’ most powerful tool was a long, beautifully composed documentary film about Clark that should be seen by anyone who wants to understand our city. It also reminded me how much I wish my life was more like Clark’s. He embraced every moment and all the people around him. He didn’t sweat the small stuff and loved nothing better than to work out the infinite puzzles of design.
And, oh yes, one of Clark’s buddies, Willie Nelson, rounded out the tribute with a few songs. Going in, attendees received a clever napkin printed with the evening’s program; going out, a gorgeous little booklet about Clark’s work with words from the rumpled master: “Architecture is not just about a building. It’s about people. No matter how beautiful or functional the design, architecture’s true meaning is found in those who live their lives in the spaces we create.”
Celebration of Children in Nature
John Covert Watson must have had something to do with it. The visionary who purchased a trashed-out sinkhole above the Pedernales River and helped turn it into Westcave Preserve, a premier nature education site, must have also paved the way for the extraordinary partnerships that the nonprofit has forged with larger efforts such as the Cities Connecting Children to Nature program.
That city of Austin campaign won the E. Lee Walker Award for Collaboration during the Celebration of Children in Nature gala at the Four Seasons Hotel. Others included Bonnie Baskin of the Science Mill in Johnson City, who took home the John Covert Watson Award for Vision; Jennifer L. Bristol, who accepted the Westcave Award for Enduring Dedication; and Keep Austin Beautiful, which snagged the John F. Ahrns Award for Environmental Education.
Each honor was accompanied by an adroit video and inspirational speeches. You couldn’t walk away without feeling the social tides were running in the right direction.
Party for the Parks
This event should make everyone who loves nature, communities and our modern city beam with pride. Brazos Hall was filled with mostly young, mostly fit, mostly fabulous fans of the Austin Parks Foundation, which picks up the tab for a lot of our underfunded parklands, including some of the total for the recently unveiled redo of Republic Square Park.
Everything about this group is admirable. And wandering among all the open, accessible guests, I couldn’t help thinking about the evolution of attitudes toward big challenges in Austin. When I arrived in the early 1980s, there were plenty of leaders who felt that big improvements should be done by the federal or state governments, the latter often through the University of Texas. As time went on — and city built more resources — people turned to city government.
But that’s not where the action is. No, the action is here among the people willing to roll up their sleeves and take care of our collective needs, among them our universally loved but sadly sometimes neglected parks and natural areas. One last bravo to C3 and the Austin City Limits Music Festival for pumping millions into the foundation every year. You’ve more than earned your permanent place in our little heaven.
Fête and Imaginarium
Well, it finally happened.
The JW Marriott Hotel, which combines acres of social space with pretty high-quality hospitality, hosted two big, beloved galas on separate floors on the same night. It really was a treat for a social columnist to move effortlessly between these events by way of a long, gliding escalator.
The Ballet Austin gala is really two events: Fête and Fête-ish. The first is a more traditional benefit featuring a cocktail hour, leisurely dinner, standard program and a lively auction. The second, intended for a younger social set, is more of a dance party enclosed by vibrant animated projections, a VIP nook and the kinds of things you’d find at a high-end nightclub.
In one of the most anticipated social “reveals” of the season, the walls part and the two parties join for compounded merrymaking. If you stayed for the whole shebang, it would have been a six-hour hullabaloo.
Two creative teams — Ilios Lighting Design and Mandarin Design Lab — lend these ballet events a singular, enveloping look, this year themed to the company’s first show of the season, “Romeo and Juliet.”
At my table, I enjoyed excellent company, including some sharp Texas lobbyists, early in the evening. I also congratulated dancer Paul Michael Bloodgood on his final appearance as Romeo and his wife, Anne Marie Bloodgood, for her gorgeous photographs of the production. Later, we learned that his movie, “Trenches of Rock,” won best best feature documentary at the Hollywood Independent Filmmaker Awards and Festival.
While dazzled by the double Fête and Fête-ish, I was drawn downstairs to sample the Imaginarium that benefits the Thinkery. The entryway for this youth-skewed gala was just right — one felt pulled into a world of infinite science.
Given that the Imaginarium first took flight at an open-side airplane hangar near the Thinkery’s eventual home at the Mueller Development, finding the event in a well-decorated but otherwise ordinary banquet hall was a little disconcerting. I listened to several speakers and met some cool folks before heading back upstairs.
How’s this for making it work? Heath Hale Auctions called both events! The always polite and charming gang of whooping men in cowboy hats raised record sums of money for these two incredibly valuable Austin nonprofits.