More than 900 people gathered on Saturday, November 9, for Live Feed, the 2013 Rice Design Alliance gala. Chaired by Betsy Strauch and Lonnie Hoogeboom, the gala honored an Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, or OKRA, a group of energetic, like-minded restaurateurs who are recharging Houston’s nightlife and restoring historic buildings in core neighborhoods Montrose, Midtown, Houston Heights, Downtown, and the Museum District.
Guests mingled all evening at the Hilton Americas-Houston amidst 105 unique auction items. The auction, coordinated by Juliè Gauthier and Kelie Mayfield, included all-expenses-paid trips to Saint Sauvant, France; San Miguel, Mexico; and Washington, D.C.; unique handmade jewelry; wine chosen by OKRA member and PSA sommelier Justin Vann; and many singular local experiences: Tours of the Philip Johnson-designed Menil House, rides along Buffalo Bayou on the “Spirit of the Bayou” pontoon, and parties catered by OKRA establishments Anvil Bar & Refuge, Underbelly, The Pastry War, Grand Prize Bar, and Hay Merchant.
Also up for bid were 14 custom works of sculpture, ceramics, painting, and mixed media, resulting from inspired collaborations between Houston artists and OKRA members, organized by Judy Nyquist.
As the Next Level Band played jazz, guests moved into the ballroom. There, the gala environment committee, chaired by Chung Nguyen of MC2 Architects with assistance from Florence Tang and Karen Lantz, designed an ephemeral installation comprising thousands of strands of piano wire tipped with wheat and “planted” in white panels. Lit from below, the waist-high wheat swayed and gave the illusion that guests were wandering through a field toward their tables. Once seated, they enjoyed a four-course meal — with one course prepared specially by Underbelly chef and James Beard Award nominee Chris Shepherd, his famous Korean braised goat and dumplings.
After RDA board president Doug Combes welcomed guests and recognized the 25-year efforts of RDA executive director Linda Sylvan, OKRA president Bobby Heugel accepted the RDA Award for Design Excellence on behalf of the 21 OKRA member organizations. At the end of the night, guests took home complimentary okra-shaped sugar cookies, decorated with the OKRA logo, courtesy of Paul Petronella. Underwritten by Brochsteins, D.E. Harvey Builders, HOK, Haynes Whaley Associates, Inc., Walter P Moore, Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc., and many other generous donors, the gala brought in more than $520,000, which will support RDA’s educational programming and publication of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston.
Seen in the crowd were underwriters Larry and Charlotte Whaley; David Harvey and Mikki Hebl; Deborah Brochstein and Steven Hecht; Ray and Elaine Messer; John Marshall; Ben Crawford and Kathrin Brunner; RDA President Doug Combes with wife Lisa; Gala Chairs Lonnie Hoogeboom and Betsy Strauch; Fundraising Chair Dave Mueller; Auction chairs Juliè Gauthier and Kelie Mayfield; Environment Chair Chung Nguyen; Graphics Chair Craig Minor; OKRA members Bobby Heugel, Chris Shepherd, Justin Vann, Michael Burnett, Dawn Callaway, Miriam Carrillo, and Paul Petronella; RDA executive director Linda Sylvan with husband Dick; former Rice School of architecture deans John Casbarian with Natalye Appel; and Lars Lerup with Eva Sarraga.
If you’d like to view and purchase the Blacktie photographs from the gala, click here.