In celebration of its 91st anniversary, the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery is dedicating this year’s Henry Gala to all things emerald. The deep green stone is not only a nod to Seattle’s ubiquitous nickname, it’s also the nine-decade commemorative gem. The annual fundraiser is known for its lively take on the traditionally formal art museum gala, and past themes have resulted in patrons wearing fantastical hats, all-silver getups, and costumes of varying intricacy. In anticipation of this year’s April 21st gala, the museum asked local interdisciplinary firm Mutuus Studio(Read GRAY’s profile on the firm from the August/September 2017 issue, here) to lead with the event’s concept and design. While a typical day in the Mutuus studio involves design of the built environment–the trio mainly works on architecture and interior design in both residential and commercial spaces–the firm’s diverse range of talents (from art and design to music and dance) make them an intriguing choice to lead the celebratory charge into the museum’s next decade. Forget the gold, this year it’s all about going for the green.
Earlier this year GRAY chatted two of the Mutuus founders, Kristen and Saul Becker, and learned more about their visions for the hottest party of the spring.
Explain your vision for the gala's emerald anniversary...
SB: We didn't want to simply have a green theme—the idea is of the emerald, the jewel. We wanted to play with the concept of the emerald and its facets and how a museum is primarily a place for different perspectives and different ways of looking. That jived with the idea of the faceted jewels, since we see The Henry as a many-faceted ‘jewel.’ We're talking about the different ways and perspectives that the Henry helps frame culture and the city around it.
How has it been switching roles from guest to designer for this event?
KB: Saul and I have been going to the Henry Gala for years. We've each personally experienced different ways to engage in the event, from the dance parties to sitting at the dinner, as well as the various venues over the years. I think the transitions are important. Traditionally there have been little snippets that make connections between sections in programming. This year, we're looking to really make it a cohesive experience from beginning to end by making people feel that the whole process is connected in an interesting way.
What has made this project such a great collaboration?
KB: Mutuus has a wide range of work with one common concept: we love the clients. For us, The Henry is the perfect client. It’s a fun team that’s interested in pushing ideas and challenging boundaries. I think that the Henry is constantly reinventing itself in terms of putting out creative artists and pushing the boundaries. I think the party is just another expression of that.
What should we be wearing?
KB: I think that's really interesting this year! We want to amp up the black tie—bring that elegance to it. The city has been more causal historically than other coasts. Coming from New York, where there are many ways to dress up, I like the idea that you can show up to this gala in full on black tie next to someone in a crazy theme-related costume. I'm curious to see how people come out in that regard, and I can't wait to figure out what I'm going to wear!
Tickets are available to the public, and proceeds benefit the museum’s exhibitions and programming.