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No gray area: Plains Art Museum's black & white gala still a vibrant night

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Patrons get creative with attire at the Plains Art Museum's Spring Gala. Photo courtesy of Milestones Photography2 / 2

FARGO—With hundreds of patrons dressing up to bid on art and sample fine wines, the Plains Art Museum's Spring Gala is one of the biggest cultural events in the area. So how does the organization try to make its signature fundraiser better every year?

This year it's addition by subtraction. For Saturday's celebration, the Plains is taking the color out of the vibrant night to host a black and white affair.

Removing the color won't remove the occasion's typical flair for innovative outfits.

While some years the event's theme reflects a particular exhibit, Andy Maus, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum, says the planners thought a simpler theme could open the doors to more creative garb.

"We thought we would connect with something really fun for people who want to do something really fun," he says. "We connect with something really traditional if people want to do something really traditional. It's sort of like the most inclusive title we've ever had, as far as that goes. If people want to do something weird with patterns that's cool."

As always, there's no real dress code for the Gala, but the theme usually offers some suggested guidance for adventurous attire.

"It's been fun to see what people come up with as far as costumes," he adds.

The black and white theme also plays into some other aspects of the evening. Red River Dance will present shadow dancing—dancers behind a sheet are backlit to project a silhouette.

Maus also says Livewire, the Fargo-based events production company, "is cooking up something and I will leave those as a surprise."

One of the biggest draws for patrons is the art auction, and this year is one of the biggest for the Plains, Maus says, with more than 90 items up for bid. In addition to auction regulars like Walter Piehl, Star Wallowing Bull and Carl Oltvedt, emerging artists like Emma Beatrez as well as new names like John Hitchcock, Anna Haglin and Naomi Schliesman have been added to the lineup.

While bidding for some pieces start as low as $66, a few are valued at nearly $5,000.

Those who miss out on Wallowing Bull's color pencil drawing can buy a tombola box for $100. "Basically, you purchase the contents of a box that you don't know what's in there," Maus explains. "It could be something really great, and it could be something not so great. There's a small Star Wallowing Bull painting in one of the boxes and in another one there's a toothbrush. You take your chances."

Some eagle-eyed guests won't even have to pay to walk away with a piece of art. Staffers are hiding miniature silkscreen prints of Punchgut's poster art around the museum as a treasure hunt.

Happy Harry's hosts a wine-tasting, while Wild Terra Cider & Brewing showcases some of its drinks. Appetizers will be provided by Chef's Table Catering, Catering by Concordia, VIP Catering, Mosaic Foods, Urban Foods and Nichole's Fine Pastry.

Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome plays from 9 p.m. to the end of the night.

"We keep adding things to the event," Maus says. "There are a lot of fundraising galas around town. We may be a bit biased, but we think ours is the best party and for the best cause."

Proceeds from the event make free general admission possible and benefit educational programs.

"It's been fun to see the Gala grow from something that in its infancy raised $10,000 to something that today frequently nets over $80,000 for the museum," Maus says.

Wine tasting is a big draw at the Plains Art Museum's Spring Gala. Photo courtesy of Milestones Photography

If You Go

What: The Spring Gala

When: 7 p.m. to midnight

Where: Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $100, plainsart.org, (701) 551-6100.

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