Society / Featured Parties

It’s All Fun and Games at Houston’s Studio Menil — This Gala Proves Art Is Fun

Scrabble, Costumes and Plenty of Big Names

BY // 04.05.22
photography Miroma Photography

World traveler, philanthropist and Menil Collection board member Franci Neely nailed it when she began planning costuming for the Studio Menil “Fun & Games” gala. She was in Cameroon at the time and picked up Cameroon national football team jerseys for her entire table. If prizes had been given, she could have easily won even though a number of others in the chic clutch joined in the themed fun.

Games of all kinds were on the table for this playful fundraising evening in the Menil Collection’s Richmond Hall. Table assignments were painted on the back of domino pieces. Tabletops, in addition to soaring profusions of dogwood blossoms, were dressed with replicas of backgammon and Scrabble boards while Scrabble pieces scrolled around the flower vases.

The theme was an acknowledgement of the role that traditional games have played in artists’ work over the centuries, Menil Collection director Rebecca Rabinow explains, adding that games are depicted in hundreds of thousands of artworks.

Among those adding fun and games touches to their attire on this evening were Eagle Global Advisor’s co-founder Eddie Allen and Kevin Lewis, co-managing partner at Sidley Austin. The duo dressed respectively as the bishop and the king from the chess board. Sam Lasseter covered his suit jacket in Scrabble letters. Houston Grand Opera general director and CEO Khori Dastoor donned a top hat of playing cards while her husband, Rivian senior manager Benjoaquin Gouverneur, added a handkerchief of playing cards to his jacket pocket.

We must applaud Neely’s table as each of her guests — among them Rabinow and husband Matt Ringel, managing partner of New Era Media & Marketing; Astros senior vice president Jared Crane and his wife Adrienne; Krystal Crane-Thompson and Garrett Thompson, Vault managing director and co-founder — all donned their soccer jerseys wearing the colorful pieces in one form or another.

Francine Ballard,Mary Steen and Greggory Burk 2 (Photo by Miroma Photography)
Studio Menil Fun & Games co-chair Francine Ballard with Mary Steen and Greggory Burk (Photo by Miroma Photography)

Leading this merry night were chairs Francine and Westy Ballard, Stacey and Casey Crenshaw, Marita and J.B. Fairbanks, and Mary and John T. Steen III. During the cocktail hour, they welcomed guests in a party tent and then led the  brief stroll into Richmond Hall, where artist Dan Flavin‘s installation of pastel-colored fluorescent light bulbs set the stage for the evening of dinner and dancing where decor was handled by Rebekah Johnson of Bergner & Johnson.

Speaking of dinner, Jackson & Company ‘s contribution to the evening was over-the-top delicious with guests roundly applauding the restaurant-quality meal. The menu: stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes, savory lemon curd and chamomile spiced tomato water sorbet; striped bass topped with tomato, castelvetrano vierge and lemon thyme beurre blanc accompanied by leek and brioche pain perdu with heirloom carrots and haricots verts and cheddar chive biscuits and yeast rolls; and for dessert rice cereal crunch with chocolate mousse, soft caramel and dark chocolate ganache garnished with raspberry and passion fruit coulis.

Franci Neely and Rebecca Rabinow 2 (Photo by Miroma Photography)
Franci Neely and Rebecca Rabinow, Menil Collection director, at the Studio Menil Fun & Games evening (Photo by Miroma Photography)

After dinner and the short program had concluded, guests took to the dance floor as Danny Ray and the Acoustic Production provided the boogie tunes.

PC Seen: Menil board chair Janet Hobby and Paul Hobby, Clare Casademont, Isabel and Ransom Lummis, Kathryn and Richard Rabinow, Elizabeth and Barry Young, Janie and Daniel Zilkha, Stephanie and Ernie Cockrell, Cindy and Larry Burns, Heidi and David Gerger, Raquel and Andrew Segal, Gretchen and Andrew McFarland, Lisa and Michael Holthouse, and Kara and Ray Childress.

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