Black and gold balloons decorated the entrance to the Oxford Community Arts Center. Attendees roamed the building in suits and flapper dresses, nibbling on hors d’oeuvres and dancing to the live music escaping from the main ballroom. Laughter and excited exclamations bubbled over into the hallways as students, parents and Oxford locals enjoyed an evening of visual and performance art.
It was the second annual Beaux Arts Ball, hosted in partnership by the American Institute of Architecture Students and Late Night Miami this past Saturday evening. Approximately 300 people either attended or performed at the event throughout the course of the evening.
The Beaux Arts Ball is a national event that has been put on since the 1930s. Up until 10 years ago, the American Institute of Architecture Students put on the event every year. The ball took a six year hiatus and then returned in the fall of 2016 when last year’s senior architecture students decided it was a tradition worthy of bringing back to Miami students and the Oxford community.
The Oxford Community Arts Center was chosen as the venue because of its longstanding tradition of hosting the Beaux Arts Ball.
“This space has a draw to it,” said Molly Meyer, senior architecture major and secretary of the American Institute of Architecture Students. “It has a long history. We’re lucky to have adults that can help us and allow students to use the space. This is a strong community that we can tap into.”
Since it started out as an architecture event, the tradition was that attendees would come to the ball dressed up as buildings. This time, the organization decided to pick a theme that more people might enjoy. Erin Socha, a senior architect major at Miami and president of the American Institute of Architecture Students, said that they chose the 1920s to “bring to life” what the College of Creative Arts is about, by picking something that is universally fun that allows for creativity.
Junior music and arts management double major Grace Rosus jumped onto the planning committee just three weeks ago. Rosus was in charge of bringing in performance groups and emceeing the entertainment for the evening.
Dance Theatre was the only returning performance group from last year. Groups that were new to the ball this year included the Best Buddies Friends Choir, Open Fifth a cappella group, Dance Corp, the Walking Theatre Project and Swing Syndicate. There were also performances done by students outside of official university groups, such as the Just Dandy Band, soloists Jenny Clemens and Molly Burns and a duet by Peter Witt and Alex Egan.
“Our mission was to acknowledge and celebrate the College of Creative Arts,” Rosus said. “To celebrate the students in it, and especially to showcase their work.”
Socha was the administrative planner who organized the event. By working on this event, Socha said that she has learned a lot about other student organizations and gotten to bond with many creative people from all over Miami’s campus.
“I’ve met more people here in the last month than I have in the past four years,” she said.
Visual arts and creative writing pieces were also showcased at the ball. Meyer set up the gallery in the North Parlor, which featured artwork, poems and short stories created by various Miami students.
The parlor had a separate display with selected works from Inklings Spring 2017, an undergraduate art and literature magazine. Meyer was in the North Parlor all day setting up the gallery. She put all of the artwork, poems and prose on boards, and then hung them up on metal sheets.
“I was dancing with all of them all day,” she said. “But I’m glad with how it turned out.”
Freshman English literature major Darcy Brady was especially drawn to the visual artwork and writings. Her favorite piece was an overlay oil on canvas painting by Stephanie Cieslak, which experimented with showing the shifting of the head through a monochromatic blue scale.
“Cieslak’s piece is very beautiful,” Brady said. “It’s nothing I’ve seen before. The orientation of the room helped it stand out with the contrast of the blue painting on the yellow walls.”
Saturday was Brady’s first time at the Beaux Arts Ball. She had heard about the event by talking with the organizers at Mega Fair earlier this year, and had been excited to attend ever since.
“I came by myself,” Brady said. “Everyone else was going to the hockey game or to Trevor Noah, but this was more up my alley. Plus, it’s the roarin’ twenties, so it’s so fun!”
Swing Syndicate was one of the earlier groups to perform, but later in the evening, while the Just Dandy Band played a cover of Twenty One Pilots, Swing Syndicate’s co-president, Jackson Herbertz, and another Syndicate member came up into the performance space and started dancing to the fast beat with the high-energy St. Louis Shag. The audience welcomed the collaboration with smiles as they watched the complicated movements performed so effortlessly.
Herbertz is a senior music major at Miami, and when he heard that the ball was going to be 1920s themed, he knew that Swing Syndicate had to be a part of it, since swing dance originated in that time.
“One of our big things is the social aspect,” he said. “There is something so fun about moving to the music. We’re made to do that.”
Herbertz and the rest of Swing Syndicate led the room in a dance lesson after their performance, teaching the ball attendees the steps to the Lindy-Hop dance, which is the base for many other more complicated swing dances. The audience was eager to stand up and learn from the interactive lesson, and appreciated how well it matched the theme for the night.
Anjelica Chase helped with the event last year, and this year she came with her mother, who was visiting from Texas for Family Weekend. The mother-daughter duo did not move from their spot on the left side of the main ballroom all night, transfixed by the performers.
“It’s a flapper theme and it really feels like it,” said Chase’s mother, Ruth Chase. “The hors d’oeuvres are great. We like sitting here, that’s why we haven’t moved. This is what parents want. This is what we like to see.”
For the first hour of the ball, Socha ran around in her black fringe dress and silver beaded headband, making sure things went smoothly and that all of the performing groups had what they needed. When she was finally able to sit down and enjoy the event, she felt as though the ball was doing what she had always set out to do.
“We wanted to promote the interdisciplinary nature of the College of Creative Arts,” she said. “Art is a universal concept and bigger than one person or one organization.”
With its remarkable turnout and great fun had by all, the Beaux Arts Ball successfully set its course to come back as one of Oxford’s staple annual events. Meyer said that the event organizers are already starting to plan next year’s ball now.