An eye for design …
Michael Gilmartin loves design, art, history and the people and places of northeastern Pennsylvania. He taught art in the Abington Heights School district for 35 years and has been an active volunteer in the greater Scranton community for many years. So it’s quite fitting that he would be among the group of volunteers creating Dinner by Design – A Visual Indulgence, at the Scranton Cultural Center next week. The event benefits the two organizations that have partnered to bring it to life: the Scranton Cultural Center and the Lackawanna County Historical Society. A feast for your eyes, Dinner by Design isn’t a formal dinner, but rather, a visual display of how one might create elegant, unique and inspired place settings. From a table for two, to an arrangement for 20 people at a cocktail party, a variety of artistic options will be part of the exhibit. Vendors will include florists, interior decorators and designers and stylists. We recently caught up with Glimartin at Nada & Co., a downtown Scranton boutique he and his family own, to chat about Dinner by Design. Meet Michael Gilmartin …
Can you describe what Dinner by Design is all about?
We like to tell people that it’s a visual event, akin to an exhibit. And this year, it’s on First Friday, which is very art-driven in the downtown. I think it will be an interesting component to First Friday because of the artistic nature of Dinner by Design. There’s plenty to see and it takes several hours to go through it at a leisurely pace to really absorb it. It’s like going to an art exhibit. It’s overwhelming. There’s a lot of minute details that people create, and interesting things that are whimsical, funny, rich and textural. It’s a great event for people planning parties, or for people who like floral work because one of the focuses is on floral design for dining.
Will there be experts on hand if we have questions?
There will be. We tell the designers who create these exhibits that they can be there as much as they want, but they don’t have to be there because there are guides who monitor the attending people so that nothing is moved or disturbed, and they’ll also answer questions.
The Cultural Center is a work of art in its own right.
Yes, and it was interesting to see how many people learned new things about the Cultural Center (during last year’s event). Whether they grew up here or they’re new to the area, they think about the Cultural Center in terms of the theater and the ballroom.
Which rooms do you use for Dinner by Design?
We used the Raymond Hood room on the lower level and the upper rooms on the fourth floor and even the hallways and some of the smaller niches. There’s a small area on the fourth floor to the right of the elevator where there’s a window and a little niche that would seat two people. So we used that space. And we used the theater mezzanine last year, too.
This year, we’re using the first floor, second floor, third and fourth floor. It draws your attention not only to the architecture, but to the colors that are inherent in the building, in the leaded glass windows and some of the wall colors. And this year we have one designer working in a black space and he’s going to create the lighting and wants to control the lighting, using LEDs. Another designer is creating a room within a room because he’s going to do backlighting. He’s going to create walls out of fabric and then project light onto them from the outside.
Will we be able to recreate some of these looks once we go home?
You could. The principles involved in lighting are easily adaptable. You can do a lot of things by lowering lighting or by changing the color of a light bulb in a room; by repeating colors through lighting that are in the flowers or in the linens. Repetition will be obvious in what you’re seeing, and that will allow you to make that transition into your home if you’re interested. This show also appeals to people who like plants and flowers, gardeners and people who like that as a hobby, or people who enjoy going to places like Winterthur, Longwood Gardens or Nay Aug Park.
Let’s talk about the marketplace.
We did a marketplace last year and made contacts with people who had businesses locally to sell to the attending people something for dinner. We had Joe Caputo’s first bottled salad dressing for sale and Paul Brady’s vodka sauce, and igourmet came and they sold cheese, and Bella Faccias was there, Nada & Co. sold candles.
And we can expect lots of flowers, too, right?
Yes, we had a florist with a flower cart in the lobby. It was in the early spring and you could buy a bouquet of iris, tulips, small potted plants, shamrock plants, orchids, African violets, it was set up so that you could just take it with you. Last year, the marketplace was small and it was in the lobby to the theater. This year, we’ll probably have about 14 marketplace vendors and we’re going to put it on the other side by the ballroom. We’re going to put a few people in the lobby to the ballroom and the vendors will be in the ballroom. There’s also a food and beverage concession run by the Cultural Center that will offer people lunch and snacks they can buy, too.
What have you learned from participating in this event?
Well, you learn about the area and the people who are here. I like working with people. And when you do fund-raising activities that’s what you learn about — you meet new people. It’s really nice.
— julie imel
The Preview Party for Dinner by Design will be held Friday, March 2, from 7-10 p.m. Tickets for the party are $60 per person. Touring of the Dinner by Design Exhibit will be offered Saturday and Sunday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, March 4, from 12 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. A combination ticket is also available for $70, which includes admission to the preview party and the exhibit all weekend. Advance tickets are available at the Scranton Cultural Center Box Office, the Lackawanna County Historical Society, Nada & Co, Ethan Allen, and Live With It. For more information, call 344-111 or visit www.scrantonculturalcenter.org.