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Cocktails for KID smART is one of my favorite fundraising events of the year. Yes, the party is always swell, but what sets it apart for me is the positive energy in the room. You can feel it. The guests are so committed to KID smART’s mission of bringing art-based learning to public school classrooms that the shared enthusiasm creates such a joyful bond.

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KID smART is 20 years strong and only getting stronger. As I’m sipping my drink and nibbling on hors d'oeuvres, I’m thinking about the kids who benefit from their many programs. Their potential, their imaginations, and their success enriched by music, dance, and art—the very things that spark my own creativity. And I know I am not the only one at the party with this mental picture.

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This year’s gala was presented by Regions Bank and hosted by Christa and Matt Schwartz in their beautiful Garden District home. As art collectors and parents of three young daughters, it was a perfect fit for the annual soiree. Originally from the East Coast, the couple met at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and launched careers in New York City (Matt is a real estate developer) while also maintaining projects here. “With work happening in both places,” Christa explains, “it just made sense to raise our family here in New Orleans and to spend summers in New York. I feel so blessed to be able to raise our girls in two cities with so much history, culture, art, and music.”

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Knowing that Christa is an interior designer, I was eager to see how she decorated her own home. True to her signature style, the spaces are fresh and bright, modern and comfortable, and filled with interesting art. In the dining room, dramatic works provide striking pops of color against crisp white walls and glossy black moldings and trim. The artwork above the fireplace is vintage Danish and the pair of paintings near the window are by Caroline Wright from the Martine Chaisson Gallery. More great art, including a Hunt Slonem work above the mantle and a commissioned wall hanging of vintage wool and silk yarns by Panthera Textiles, hangs in the living room. And I had to know more about the vibrant blue and white paint “smear” in the family room; I loved the texture. “It’s a wall sculpture by Donald Martiny from the Martine Chaisson Gallery,” Christa explains. “The artist hand manipulates pigmented plaster.” As a whole, their art collection feels intentional and fresh. Christa let me in on a secret. “It was pretty easy to be intentional since each piece was purchased for this house. Our first home in New York had all glass windows!”

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For the gala, food and entertainment flowed throughout their spacious house and although it was an unusually warm and balmy October night, we were not deterred from enjoying the backyard covered patio and poolside entertainment. The dining room table was laden with artfully arranged charcuterie by Martin Wine Cellar. And with their catering gear tucked away in the property’s carriage house, passed appetizers such as petite tomato and goat cheese tarts seemed to magically appear. I’m one of those party goers who can happily dine on fine cheeses and tasty small bites, so tuna tartare, crab ravigote melts, and camembert dripping with fresh honey made up my starter, entree, and cheese course. Outdoors, chefs grilled Argentinian steak, Atlantic salmon, and seasonal vegetables. I had time to chat with some of the Martin catering staff and it was obvious that great care went into this delicious menu. For music, we enjoyed David Torkanowsky at the piano and the Preservation Hall All-Stars performing poolside later in the evening.

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I enjoyed chatting with co-chair Martine Chaisson Linares about childhood ballet lessons and our belief that ballet study builds confidence and self-esteem. Although I never progressed further than being a mouse in the Nutcracker, I learned so much about self-discipline and patience. She had me laughing when she said “for now, my toddler is more of a tapper.” To be honest, I’m probably more of a tapper myself. And co-chair Erin Romney Cazes, founder of Romney Studios, knows the power of teaching students in multi-layered ways. “The KID smART approach offers a diverse way of empowering children to express themselves and feel excited about learning. That’s huge!”

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A highlight of the evening for me was speaking with visual artist Marjorie Brown Pierson and Board President Suzanne Dumez about the collage ‘Channel Lace’ that Marjorie generously donated for the live auction. Anticipation was definitely building! With auctioneer Ruthie Winston at the auction stand, things got lively. And when the gavel went down, longtime KID smART supporter Jim Mounger was pronounced the highest bidder. I am already looking forward to next year’s fundraiser as KID smART continues to exceed their goals. Take a look at their inspiring website and I hope to see you at the 2020 gala.

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This article was featured in the December 2019 Issue of Adore Magazine.