In considering themes for its latest Color Ball, the Asheville Area Arts Council was foremost inspired by its own history. This year marks the nonprofit’s 40th anniversary, a milestone whose traditional gift is a certain stone associated with royalty and Dorothy Gale’s shoes — and, just as importantly, is a hue that’s yet to be featured in the AAAC’s 14 previous arts bashes.
The choice all but made for them, the AAAC staff and board of directors will celebrate the organization’s four decades as the collective voice for the arts, advancing Buncombe County’s creative sector through advocacy, professional development and resources, with the Ruby Ball on Saturday, Sept. 21.
The four-party evening also marks the first Color Ball with Katie Cornell as the arts council’s executive director. Previously, the development manager for the Center for Craft, Cornell enters the role with more than 18 years of experience working in the Asheville arts sector.
“Luckily, I have a lot of event coordination experience, but it has definitely been interesting coming in at the end of the planning process,” she says. “That being said, I really appreciate having the opportunity to connect with so many community partners right off the bat. I have also enjoyed learning about the rich history of the Color Ball and the many longtime supporters that have been involved with this community event over the years.”
The Ruby Ball — which, Cornell also reveals, will be the last of the color balls as the AAAC looks to “a different fundraising model” in the future — will be bookended by showcases in creative spaces in the South Slope, including the AAAC’s rooms in the Refinery Creator Space, where this year’s VIP event takes place, 5-7 p.m. Strada Italiano will cater the party while local vocalist Kat Williams performs.
The festivities then shift to the River Arts District for dual parties running 7-9:30 p.m. One option is the Eco Depot Marketplace’s soul and R&B-themed event, “RB Squared.” Local ’60s music specialist WestSound provides the tunes alongside complementary movement from the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, one of the AAAC’s numerous grant recipients whose talents will be spotlighted over the course of the night. Among the featured groups and individual artists Cornell points out are the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center, musician Juan Holladay, photographer/artist Colby Caldwell, multidisciplinary artist Martha Skinner and the Flatiron Writers Room.
Running parallel to “RB Squared” is “The Cotton Club,” during which the Historic Cotton Mill Studios will be transformed into a Cuban cabaret. Building representative Jannette Montenegro and longtime hosts Lauri Nichols (District Wine Bar) and Kristie Quinn (Smoky Park Supper Club) are combining forces for the Latin-themed party, described as a “dark and sultry soiree” with tunes by Patrick Lopez, DJ Zati and Katie Kasben.
True to past Color Balls, all of the above is mere preamble for the evening’s main event, the “Ruby Review.” Though previous final parties have been held at The Orange Peel, Cornell says the AAAC decided to partner with South Slope neighbors and longtime supporters Wicked Weed Brewing to help showcase their shared district and mark the grand opening of the Funkatorium’s new event space.
From 9:30 p.m.-midnight, each of the 15 Color Balls will be celebrated while Holladay, percussion and dance collective Zabumba, indie rockers Get Right Band and other local dancers provide the venue’s inaugural entertainment. As revelers take in the night’s many offerings, they can party with the knowledge that proceeds from the event directly support the local arts sector, thereby encouraging more such fetes in the future.
“The Color Ball was created to be the biggest, most extravagant arts bash in Asheville,” Cornell says. “We are excited about having the opportunity to showcase our grant recipients and other local artists and arts organizations … [and the] community hosts who dedicate their time, resources and contacts to help make this event happen.”
WHAT: The Asheville Area Arts Council Ruby Ball
WHERE: Various venues, ashevillearts.com
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 21, 5 p.m.-midnight. $35-175