Hot time, "Summer in the City," didn't seem to be a shadow in the city Friday night when the Mattress Factory hosted its annual Urban Garden Party. The benefit bash to beat all bashes attracted a sold-out crowd of 1,200 in two tiers. The bigger ticket VIPs arrived earlier in the evening for a reception orchestrated in signature style by Bob Sendall. A comely tree (actually a model on stilts with leaf attire) roamed through the guests, encouraging them to bid on auction items while they sipped mojitos (was that Robin Fernandez serving them?) and sampled fresh summer fare.
Later, later and much later, a steady stream of guests poured through the doors and into the urban garden -- actually artist Winifred Lutz's ever-changing installation behind the museum. It looks like ruins and creates a very cool but rugged terrain for a party (especially if you're wearing platform stilettos!), but it was perfect for the skateboarders who shot down the steps. They were the first in a lineup of urban-themed entertainment planned by party chair Christine Astorino and her committee. The Pittsburgh Heat Hip Hop Dance Company, firehoopers, MTV's America's Best Dance Crew Jungle Boogie, SkaterCam, bucket drumming and other diversions kept the energy high in the tented party area above the garden. Assorted food and drinks generously supplied by a host of local purveyors were another reason to roam, but the main one, of course, was the socializing.
What's most interesting about this popular event is the way it cuts across the borders of age and economics to attract a lively, diverse and always colorful crowd. The installation art museum has done a wonderful job of appealing to a mass audience while it continues to stay on the edge, thanks to co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk. And thanks to the Urban Garden Party, they have nearly $200,000 more to do it with.