No one danced around the theme of TACA's 50th Anniversary Gala on September 8 at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. "Celebration" was the word of the night — in conversation, in remarks onstage, and in the title of the artistic highpoint of the glittering event.
"This signature gala celebrates five decades of TACA's commitment to the arts in North Texas," said Wolford McCue, TACA Carlson president and executive director.
He and gala co-chairs Chef Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart greeted several hundred arts-minded attendees at the entrance of an outdoor, air-conditioned tent decorated elegantly with white roses and twinkling lights. Inside, the glamorous guests nibbled on passed canapes from Dallas' most revered restaurant and sipped wine, champagne, and cocktails — including signature gin libations called "A Fish Called Wanda," garnished, appropriately, with plastic fish swizzle sticks.
Emcee Joel Ferrell, associate artistic director at Dallas Theater Center, insisted that the cocktails continue ahead of a live auction that would directly impact arts organizations like his — "mama needs a new play festival," he quipped. In her touching remarks, TACA Board Chair Donna Wilhelm shared how honing her artistic talents helped her overcome the shame she felt being called "immigrant girl" as a child.
Then the artists who benefit from TACA (The Arts Community Alliance) took center stage. Members of three Dallas-area dance troupes — Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Bruce Wood Dance, and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance — gave the world premiere performance of "Celebration," commissioned by TACA for the gala. Curated by TITAS Presents Executive-Artistic Director Charles Santos and choreographed by Bridget L. Moore, artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theater, the groovy, energetic piece was set to Stevie Wonder songs.
"I wanted to create a work that would honor and celebrate TACA's milestone of 50 years and its commitment to the arts," Moore said. "Charles suggested a variety of songs, and we both agreed that Stevie Wonder would be a great fit for the work. You just can't go wrong with the music of Stevie Wonder."
The luxury live auction, conducted by auctioneer Louis Murad of Murad Auctions, featured six incredible packages of both local experiences and journeys around the world. While TACA is still tallying totals, it was clear bidders were prepared to be generous.
A trip to locales featured in James Bond films in the Swiss Alps, Venice, and Monte Carlo brought on a bidding war so fierce that a second, identical package was added; both sold for $14,000.
The most sought-after auction package, though, was a dinner for 12 cooked by Fearing and served by three former Dallas Cowboys greats as personal waiters and wine stewards: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Daryl Johnston. Fearing told the crowd he had hesitated to press "send" on the email to the Super Bowl champs, but each said yes immediately, creating a once-in-a-lifetime dinner experience.
"I went out on a limb to ask these guys, and we need big dollars for this," he said from the stage. "It'll never happen again. We'll do it once, that's it."
Fearing and TACA scored big with a winning bid of $32,500.
The gala continued with a three-course dinner with CK Mondavi wine pairings inside the Mansion's restaurant. On the menu were Peekytoe crab with langoustine, avocado, Meyer lemon, and local tomato gazpacho; Wagyu beef sirloin with fois gras, textures of kale, bacon marmalade potato, and king oyster mushroom; and a sweet ending called "Intense" — dark chocolate mousse, crunchy hazelnut, choco'passion macaron, and exotic sorbet.
Established in 1967, The Arts Community Alliance champions artistic excellence in North Texas arts organizations and encourages innovation, collaboration, and engagement through financial support, stewardship, and resources. Since its inception, TACA has distributed more than $24 million to emerging and established performing arts organizations.
Gierhart teased that next year would see changes to TACA's premier fundraising event, and to its mission. "TACA's Custom Auction Gala has historically signaled the commencement of Dallas' black-tie season," she said. "Because the organization is poised to expand its reach to include the visual arts, the party on September 8 will be the last of its kind, lending extra excitement to the proceedings while setting the stage for exciting changes in 2018."
In other words, arts lovers should stay tuned.