Set the Table is an annual fundraiser for the Seattle Art Museum, held in the summertime at The Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront. It's a beautiful location, surrounded by seminal sculptures, sweeping views of Elliot Bay and the Olympic Mountains. Artists from around the region are invited to design innovative and clever table displays for wealthy patrons to dine at. PDL were invited to "set the table" two years in a row, and it was a lot of fun.
Here are descriptions of the two tables we created:
Ring Bell for Service
We used our artist stipend to rent three tuxedos, buy an old brass handbell, two dozen Petunias and a variety of small props. The table was dressed with a white lace table cloth, crystal vases and the large bouquet of flowers. Jason, Jed and Greg stood at attention, white gloves on, ready to serve our 12 guests.
Part of the deal was that the artists received complimentary seats to dine with the rest of the arts patrons. Since the three of us were performing that night, we decided to employ a little discrete theater. Our stunning, vivacious 30-year-old female friend K agreed to attend the dinner with our subdued, straight-faced 77-year-old male friend C. as a married couple. Their only instructions were to introduce themselves as a couple and dote on one another from time to time.
When the guests were all seated, Jed described the performance that was about to unfold. We had a brass bell. And any guest at the table could ring the bell, as they pleased, throughout their dinner. What we did not reveal was what that dinner bell would activate.
Among other things, services included:
- a backrub
- a 'feather tickle'
- a Polaroid photo shoot
- a platter of paper airplanes to throw at other guests, or other tables
- a presentation for an 'investment opportunity' to support a short film by local artist David Nixon
- a visit from a 'famous food sculptor (actually just Greg in costume)' who would sculpt your plate of food into a 'masterpiece'
- several rounds of fake "tequila shots", hoisted loudly with bawdy toasts
- Jason, crouching next to you, as you 'personal assistant' the rest of the night
- Jed, in only a monkey mask and Speedo, lumbering by the table giving away tiny bananas
- a live nude model, holding a 10-minute pose for figure-drawing instruction, with sketchbooks being handed out to the guests
The documentation is hazy for this one, but our basis premise was to honor the bohemian working artist and provide a live display of art-making, rather than a static, pre-set table decor. To that end, we dressed in gray jumpsuits, built a simple wooden rack around out guests' table, filled with blank canvases, and proceeded to paint them all, one by one, during the course of the dinner, replacing empty canvases with painted ones, to create a gallery of sorts by night's end. We set up easels and tarps, asked our table's diners for subject matter, and engaged nonstop in painting for the 4+ hours of the event, while the guests ate and the servers darted in and out with plates of food and bottles of wine. By night's end, we divvied up the newly minted masterpieces, several of the works ended up going home with our guests, some ended up in the hands of servers and busboys, and regrettably no photos were taken of the work. The immediacy of the experience was the experience.