By definition, change and tradition do not go hand in hand. But Wednesday night the Carnegie Museum of Art changed a tradition that dates back half a century. It moved the Carnegie Trees Preview Party -- always the unofficial start of the Christmas season -- into the Hall of Sculpture.
In a year when the trees were truly magnificent, some of the nearly 400 guests never made it into the Hall of Architecture to see what everyone was raving about. It must be somebody's rule that people will always congregate where the bars are, and moving the bars moved the crowd. The result was a holiday party that felt less festive, despite the gracious hospitality of the Women's Committee members who passed hors d'oeuvres in their own grand tradition.
The issue is a management decision to protect the valuable plaster replicas of ancient ruins in the Hall of Architecture by keeping bars and food out of it. Yet the party's allure has always been the cozy warmth of being surrounded by the twinkling trees. Their beauty helped to created a magical, intimate setting -- perfect for cocktails and conversation. Maybe there's a middle ground, like a bar in the center of the hall or the trees somewhere else! Fortunately the evening was still fun, with old friends and new, and those fabulous trees, the seven wonders of the season.
This year's theme was World's Fairs (inspired by the Carnegie's current "Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fair" exhibition), with participation from the Frick Art Museum, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, The Andy Warhol Museum and Carnegie Libraries. Chaired by Women's Committee members Tara Safar and Melissa Ferrari, the trees represent a year of hard work, with endless handmade ornaments that are marvels to behold contributed by so many.
Sharing season's greeting on Wednesday were Carnegie Museums president John Wetenhall, CMA director Lynn Zelevansky, Women's Committee president Susan Block with PG publisher John Block, Alice Snyder, Ranny and Jay Ferguson, Gordon and Kenny Nelson, Ed and Nancy Byrnes, Bill and Betsy Amis, Lou and Henry Gailliot, Jeff and Jessica Brown, Bonnie and Vaughn Blaxter and tree creators including Carole Kamin, Mernie Berger, Mike Sexauer, Cynthia Cooley, Laura Beattie, Elizabeth Braughler and Nancy Lewis.