MANCHESTER, NH — Trapeze artists, atmospheric models, flappers, a contortionist able to squeeze her entire body through a folding chair (really), music, dancing, feathers, feathers, and more feathers. No this isn’t a Hollywood set, this is Manchester’s own Currier Museum’s annual fall gala, complete with live entertainment, tasty hors d’oeuvres, cleverly named cocktails and exuberant patrons equipped to get their Gatsby on, willing to shimmy their fringe and tip their hats, eagerly embodying their temporary roles for an immersive evening of gilded age glamour.
Each fall, for three consecutive years, the Currier Museum hosts a themed affair. With its two-story facility, double marble staircase, and in-house commissary, it’s no wonder why it is a seamless venue for period-specific events. The first, Moulin Rouge, the second a masquerade ball, and this year in honor of the museum’s centennial, a celebration of the Roaring 20s. On Saturday, Nov 2 the museum hosted a sequin-filled dazzling affair to commemorate its 100th anniversary. I recently had the opportunity to interview Deputy Director Karen Graham, Special Events Manager Corrine Breton and PR/Media Manager Tiffany Eddy all of whom are cohesively involved with the execution of the annual soiree.
“We call these parties ‘friends raisers.’ Everything we charge a ticket for is cyclical. Any profit goes back into the mission of the museum, so not only are you attending an amazing party you are also supporting the Currier as an institution which we find is a great way for new audiences to get introduced to the museum,” says Breton.
Graham points to the new leadership of Director and CEO, Dr. Alan Chong as a vehicle for the Curriers refreshing rejuvenation.
“It’s changed the game for us since we flipped that paradigm of being a very conservative art museum to be more inviting and inclusive under Alan’s leadership. I think the public sees it, they might not know what’s behind it but they respond to it. We have a great team. Alan has big ideas and we make it happen,” says Graham.
The Roaring 20s Comes to Manchester. The Currier Celebrates its Centennial
The Currier gala hosts an expansive audience typically in the age range of 27 to 65 years old, with approximately 300 persons in attendance.
“It’s multigenerational. It has been really nice to have a real melting pot blend of ages experiencing the same event, maybe in different ways but still, all on the dance floor. We definitely are creating a go-to audience for this event and it is really nice to learn we are not the only ones that want to have fun, dress up and feel that excitement, a lot of other people want too as well. There aren’t a lot of these parties in the Manchester area so we really like to blow it out of the water,” Breton explains.
The staff also joins in the festivities, as galleries and the museum store remain open for the greater portion of the evening, welcoming patrons to roam their world-class institution while enjoying the festivities.
The Currier has exclusively worked with Malloy Events which provided the speakeasy air as well as staged photo-op stations, breathing life into Breton’s concepts. “They are amazing, says Breton, I work with them closely, they are very cohesive, the look, the feel, the event texture. They are an ally and a force of nature when it comes to this event.”
Boston Circus Guild provided the aerial rigs, trapeze artists, and contortionists. Atmosphere models and dancers by Dream City Dance out of Burlington Vermont and music by DJ T-Roc of ECF Entertainment.
Traditionally, the Currier fall-themed events parallel a current exhibit. However this year the museum decided to somewhat deviate by specifically celebrating its inception in 1919. Although one could possibly bridge the 1951 Frank Lloyd Wright built Zimmerman house, owned by the museum, with its Art Deco essence and coordinating merchandise displayed in the eclectic museum store (a must-see, complete with Bob Ross socks and bobbleheads) as an offsite exhibit.
“People love this party. The theme last year was masquerade and I would say 95 percent of the audience came wearing masks, and dressed for the event. It’s really participatory. People love getting dressed up. This has become our fall thing and I think attendees like the fact that it is full of fun and entertainment. It’s unlike anything else in the area and is something that you are not going to find at any other event in New Hampshire,” says Eddy.
The Currier Museums’ mission to participate with the community is a well thought out process where teams discuss creative ideas to attract patrons to the museum’s ever-changing galleries.
“I feel sometimes there might be a perception that you’ve come and you’ve seen it and you know what to expect and that is completely not true. The museum is constantly changing with new exhibitions and revolving the permanent collection. If you came two months ago and came back today, it would be totally different. I think the fact that there is so much happening and so much change, we can continue to offer new experiences to people who live in the community” Eddy explains.
Graham expresses her aversion for the widely used term “hidden gem” in referencing the museum, explaining the museum does not want to be hidden which is its express reason for its many offerings and changing exhibits. Currently on display, the stirring, We Are For Freedoms, is an exhibit of re-imagined 1943 Norman Rockwell series The Four Freedoms, reflecting modern-day concerns, appropriately featuring models who mirror the likeness of the ethnic mix that is Manchester.
The Currier campus offers art classes to all ages with a specific outreach for children. It also continues to offer themed events at a smaller scale the likes of Bourbon and Blues, a whiskey sampling event, beer sampling, contemporary exhibits, where exhibits are paired with living artists, Music and Mimosas and The Side Door Music Series, where patrons can enjoy a meal and live music in the Winter Garden.
For those whose schedules do not allow a day trip, the museum offers extended hours on the first Thursday of every month, open to 9 p.m. with special programming, tours, food, a bar and music. They are also open for free for NH residents from 10 a.m. to noon on the Second Saturday of every month.
“Our goal is to offer something for everyone, to attract new audiences, and to have fun doing it,” says Graham.”