The theme for the Barnes Foundation’s young professionals night on Friday was Vintage Vaudeville, and Dandy Wellington and His Band were pulling it off, even convincing partygoers in non-period garb to try some old-fashioned moves on the dance floor.
By the end of the night, the dance floor and the rest of the Barnes’ main hallway was full, tinted in a red glow, as hundreds of Philly’s youngest and brightest residents enjoyed what has become one of the most popular parties in the city.
The Barnes has been putting on these Young Professionals events since it opened in Logan Square in May 2012, hosting about three per year. The museum transforms from its studious setting to a party befitting any upscale bar in Philadelphia. On Friday, partygoers swayed to music from Dandy Wellington and later DJ Adrian Hardy, drank craft beer and cocktails and munched on pork belly buns. Any attendee could leave the main floor of the party to browse the museum’s art collection, minus the cocktail of course.
“It gives us an opportunity to be playful in a different way,” Kathleen Greene, the Barnes’ public programs manager, said of the event.
The events are mainly the work of Greene and director of annual giving programs Katie Adams. In collaboration with the event planning company Mole Street, they select themes and plan the events to fit current exhibitions.
Vaudeville night was paired with a William Glackens exhibit that ends February 16. Glackens, a Philly native, painted from the 1890s to the 1930s, and he was good friends with museum founder and namesake Albert C. Barnes. Glackens’s works largely feature scenes from early 20th century society in the style of realism. One of his most famous paintings is “Vaudeville Team,” which features himself and a model as singers in mid-song.
Another driving force behind the parties are the Circles Contemporaries. The Young Professionals event coincided with the development of this membership group that largely consists of younger people who want to get involved with art.
Evan Solomon, founder of the consulting firm EFS Networks, is part of the Circles Contemporaries. He says the Young Professionals parties are often the most fun events he goes to throughout the year.
Added his wife, Lynsey Solomon: “It’s a good group of people in a beautiful location.”
The crowd Friday night consisted of young people from all the places you’d expect in Philly: Comcast, Wharton, smaller startups etc. Many of the attendees said they wouldn’t come to the Barnes if not for these Young Professional events.
Greene said the Barnes hopes these events will entice them to see the art and support the relatively new museum on other days, too.
“I think every cultural institution wants to reach a younger audience,” she said.