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A THEME FOR THE AGES: Film connoisseur Christopher Roberts will lead a trivia game on the 1942 movie, “Casablanca,” as part of this year’s Dining by Design benefit, which helps fund free programming at the Arts Council of Princeton. The event, which will take place on Saturday, October 15, offers residents a night of cuisine, culture, and the arts.

Arts Council Annual Fund-raiser Offers Night of Culture and Cuisine

Candace Braun

The Arts Council of Princeton, whose mission is to nurture and support the arts in the greater Princeton area, will be furthering its cause once again this year by holding its fifth annual Dining by Design benefit on Saturday, October 15. This year's theme is based on the 1942 film, Casablanca.

Courtesy of the Arts Council and its many organizers and participants, residents will enjoy an evening of culinary and cultural arts in the homes of 30 historic or architecturally significant private homes in Princeton, Hopewell, and Pennington.

Tickets for the event, which are mostly tax-deductible, range in price from $150 to $500. All of the night's proceeds will support the Art Council's free community and youth programming.

Guests will enjoy dinner in one of the as yet unannounced homes in the Princeton area, where food will range from a Casablanca-themed Moroccan meal to a dinner circa 1910 served in a house of the same era. Other themed dinners include a French dining experience in a historic farmhouse furnished with American antiques, and a European dinner served in a house furnished with Biedermeier furniture. Some of the contemporary culinary arts will be represented by Kim Rizk, author of the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook and Karen Childs, executive pastry chef of the Village Bakery in Lawrenceville.

Groups visiting the various homes will be chosen by a committee looking to provide a good balance between young and old, friends and strangers. The night's entertainment will be provided by guest speakers, including printmaker Judith Brodsky, sculptor Rupert Getzen, and internationally renowned architect Michael Graves, who designed the renovation of the Arts Council's Paul Robeson Building on Witherspoon Street.

Anne Margaret Daniel, a professor of literature at Princeton University, will discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald's descriptions of Princeton in This Side of Paradise, and College of New Jersey Professor James Brazell will talk on the subject of "Poetry and Painting: The Case of William Carlos Williams."

Chang-Rae Lee will discuss his award-winning novel, Native Speaker, and author Yael Goldstein will talk about her forthcoming book, Overture. Music will be provided by Carolyn Hoyler and Holly French of the "French Hens," who will perform Cole Porter music, as well as poet Paul Muldoon, who will show another side of his talent.

Film connoisseur Christopher Roberts will also lead a trivia game on Casablanca, in keeping with the night's theme.

Homes for the benefit were found through volunteers, as well as contacting certain residents who are known to have special collections that would be of interest to the public, said Kathy Herring, who is co-chairing the event with Jennifer Hayden.

"Usually people are pretty gracious and want to help out," she said.

Following dinner, guests will gather together for champagne, dessert, dancing, and a silent auction at the Princeton Airport in a hangar decorated to look like a street scene from Casablanca, whose memorable closing scene takes place at an airport.

Kookie Johnson and Harper McArthur are organizing this year's silent auction. Last year's auction items included a platter from Bowhe & Peare; tickets to the New York City Ballet; a week at a house in Maine, which included a game on a private tennis court and lunch; a picnic for adults and children at a local farm, catered by Chez Alice; a week at a house on Martha's Vineyard; art books from Princeton University Press; a plane ride around the area from Princeton Airport; gift certificates from Ashton Whyte and J. Crew; and a weekend getaway at the Nassau Inn.

The Dining by Design benefit stands out from others that are held in the community, as the proceeds do not go to the Arts Council's capital campaign, but toward programming for the community, said Arts Council spokesperson Randi Lund.

"We try to offer free programs for families in the area who can't afford them on their own," she said, mentioning that among the programs the benefit helps fund are Arts Exchange, a program for homeless children in the area that is run in collaboration with HomeFront, as well as Art-Reach, an outreach program for youth in the John-Witherspoon neighborhood.

The annual benefit has proven to be a good way for the Arts Council to bring several fund-raising ideas together in one night, rather than several all-day events as in the past, said Ms. Lund.

"It has the best of everything; it is accomplished in one night, it has the intimacy of dining in one's home and meeting new people, and then meeting up with everyone afterward in a more public space," she said.

Among the corporate supporters for this year's Dining by Design are PNC Bank/PNC Advisors, Reed Smith LLP, and Wegman's Food Markets. Corporate sponsorships are still available and interested parties should contact Kate Kaeli at (609) 924-1440 for more information.

Tickets for Dining by Design can purchased through Lisa Salamandra, at (609) 924-8777, ext. 102. Guests will be be notified of the exact location for their dinner on or near Thursday, October 13.



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