Society / Featured Parties

Channeling the Psychedelic 1960s, Houston’s Always Raucous Orange Show Gala Turns Into a Record $1.1 Million Night

Iconic Art Institution Brings Out Plenty of Colorful Power Players

BY Shelby Hodge and Catherine D. Anspon // 11.22.22

The “Repsychedelic” theme of the deliciously raucous Orange Show gala was as much a nod to the era of bell bottoms, flower power and LSD as it was to 21st century sustainability mandates. Embracing the motif, devotees of the folk art phenom dressed the part, partied like it was the 1960s all over again, and raised a record $1.1 million, making it the most successful fundraiser in the 41 year history of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.

In keeping with theme, the appropriately colorful handcrafted decor of the Orange Show World HQ was created by artists and members of the community from discarded objects and recycled materials. Likewise, artist-designed centerpieces for each table included assemblage sculptures and recycled faux flowers, adding to the “celebrate the artist in everyone” vibe.  

Melissa Mithoff and Don Mafrige Jr., longtime patrons of the Orange Show who happen to be cousins, joined by Melissa’s husband Michael Mithoff, helmed the giddy throwback to the 1960s which offered people-watching at its finest. No party draws more creative or enthused costuming than this tribute to Jeff McKissack‘s vision.

For this crowd of 650, the ’60s were a cinch. The fringe, the disco boots, the afros, the psychedelic fabrics, the beads, the flowers — oh my.

Cynthia Piro, Ashley Langley – photo by Emily Jaschke
Cynthia Piro, Ashley Langley at Orange Show Gala (Photo by Emily Jaschke)

Even before The Commodores cranked up their familiar tunes — an unforgettable set than encompassed chart-bustin’ hits such as “Too Hot,” “Easy,” “Sail On,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Night Shift,” and Brick House” —  the party was pulsating with Rivka French dancers and aerial artists from Vault Houston. Cocktail hour was enlivened by smoldering vocals by Houston jazz crooner Raquel Cepeda. Fortune tellers provided views to the future. Poetry buskers performed their magic. Bonnie Blue painted caricatures on bottles. And revelers lined up for the photo both where Hannah Bull had painted the “repsychedelic” mural backdrop.

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Key players in the evening were auction chairs Melissa Dobrowski, Michel Muylle and Eva Prappas and decor chairs Jackie Wallace and Katelyn Wallace. Anne Carl and Kim Moody stepped up as Host Committee co-chairs. 

The silent action contributed heavily to the bottom line with contributions from blue chip artists and local talent including James Surls, John Alexander, Hunt Slonem, Dorothy Hood, Robert Hodge, Sharon Kopriva, Ronald L. Jones, Jesse Lott, Charles Garabedian, Anna Mavromatis, Claire Cusack, McKay Otto and Geoff Winningham. Top three auction lots were won by Houston collectors, scoring iconic offerings by James Surls, John Alexander and McKay Otto., which added substantially to this evening’s green. 

The Commodores and Crowd – photo by David DeHoyos
The Commodores wowed the crowd at Orange Show Gala (Photo by David DeHoyos)

Of special note: Ice sculptor the Reverend Butter carved a psychedelic mushroom where bivalves from Prestige Oysters were served. Jackson & Company, as always, delivered on the elegant seated dinner. Sponsors Ketel One and Rock N Roll Tequila devised beautiful activations and tastings for the guests.

The gala ran across one challenge — being scheduled for the same night as Game Six of the World Series. A phalanx of big screen TVs were brought in as part of the party decor. As co-chair Don Mafrige Jr. noted, “If ever the sports gods were smiling on a charity, it was this night.”

Right before the Commodores took to stage, the Astros were anointed World Series champions with a win over the Phillies at Minute Maid Park, which sparked a huge run to the dance floor the minute victory was announced. As Orange Show director Tommy Ralph Pace exclaimed, “This gala is the best damned Astros victory party ever!” 

Marilyn Oshman, McKay Otto, Don Mafrige, Jr. – photo by Emily Jaschke
Marilyn Oshman, auction artist McKay Otto, gala co-chair Don Mafrige Jr. at Orange Show Gala (Photo by Emily Jaschke)

PC Seen: New York-based architect Rob Rogers, whose firm has been tapped for the Orange Show campus expansion (stay tuned for more epic Houston art news soon); Orange Show patroness supreme, founder/board chairman Marilyn Oshman, daughter Karen Lubetkin Desenberg and son Andrew Lubetkin, both of whom are dedicated OS board members; artist McKay Otto, in from Wimberley, whose silent auction donation generated a bidding war; retailers Shannon Hall and Marcus Sloan; interior designer Cathy Echols; fashion designer Debra Linse; and party-planners extraordinaire Jonathan Beitler and Elaine Dillard who executed the clever touches for this outrageously fun night.

2022 Orange Show 41st Annual Gala
J. Michael Soliz at Orange Show Gala (Photo by David DeHoyos)

More fabulous art folks making the scene: Orange Show curator and art-volume author Pete Gershon; TSU University Museum’s Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, celebrating her birthday; a coterie of gallerists including Franny Koelsch Jeffries and husband John Jeffires, Barbara Davis, Janice Bond, Paul Middendorf and Heidi Vaughan; former Orange Show director Susanne Theis and husband David Theis; 550 Market in Round Top’s Cathy Mace Frietsch and Steven Frietsch, and Kathy Frietsch; art car artist Rickey Polidore; and winning our vote for best costume, J. Michael Soliz, as you can see in the image above.

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