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Partytime Productions creates artful installation

Project Briefs | August 1, 2010 | By:

Partytime Productions pulls off a delicate installation at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Last March approximately 500 of Chicago’s “who’s who” gathered for a gala fundraiser to celebrate the opening of the “Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917” exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Planners for the event hired Partytime Productions of Addison, Ill., to bring into reality their vision of holding the event both inside the Modern Wing and outside in the adjacent Pritzker Garden.

Partytime has a history with the Institute in that the company provided a large custom clearspan in the park across the street for the Art Institute’s grand opening of its Modern Wing in May 2009. The company’s successful execution of that event undoubtedly factored into their winning the bid for the Matisse exhibit celebration—an event that would require special handling due to the on-grounds location.

Concerns regarding the columns supporting the courtyard roof, a very valuable piece of art hanging in the vicinity and the landscaped garden presented logistical challenges for the installation. “We were instructed not to get too close to the building on either side and not to touch any of the existing white columns [with the installation],” says Jim Gallagher, president of Partytime Productions. “We were able to get a scale plan from the Art Institute and then our CAD designer was able to drop in the [virtual] tenting off our CAD.”

In order to not disturb the gardens, the crew hand carried the equipment for load-in and load-out. “We had to follow very stringent install guidelines,” Gallagher says. “The president and director of the Art Institute [James Cuno] actually came out to greet us during the load-in just to reinforce to us that no mistakes could be made.”

The crew installed three Losberger clearspan tents, nestling them between the columns. The initial plan included installing a 15-meter tent, 3 feet out from the south wall of the Modern Wing. Cuno felt that would be too close to the artwork hanging on the other side of the wall, so Gallagher changed the tent dimensions. “What we did was take it down to a 12-footer on the fly and then I alerted the [event] coordinator,” Gallagher says. “But it didn’t affect the guest count because we were able to make the tent a little more elongated than square.”

Another installation challenge was the fact that the Art Institute would not allow the tents to be staked. The crew ballasted the tents using the company’s proprietary weights. “We have weights that are divisible by 1,200 pounds, are stackable and meet the Losberger specs,” Gallagher says. “We determined the proper amount of weight needed by Losberger’s recommendations.”

After a two-day installation by an 18-member crew, the venue was ready for the event planners to take over. The result of proper planning, imagination and flexibility was a stunning venue for a stunning event. “This level of work really fits what we do better than most,” Gallagher says. “When you’re in an environment that requires meticulous, white-glove detail, that’s really where we excel.”

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