Washington locals were entertained with savory bites and an exclusive exhibition at a cocktail reception hosted in the Embassy of Finland to honor the organization’s 21st anniversary.
By Macey Baird
The Embassy of Finland buzzed on a mid-summer night as savvy Washingtonians gathered to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Smithsonian Young Benefactors in the first green consulate in the U.S. Some-200 people were in high-spirits at the annual YB Birthday Bash as they sipped on First Vine wine and Heineken beer. Georgetown Cupcake provided a sugar-high spread of cream cheese and chocolate confections arranged on Marimekko tablecloth as tuxedo-clad servers offered light hors d’oeuvres. With the impressive Eero Saarinen exhibit on the north side of the floor, the back room flashed with photos from the YB’s Jolly Holiday soiree. “Our benefits are always friendly and festive,” said event coordinator Kate Stilwill, clad in a little black dress for the occasion.
Smartly-dressed patrons tippled as they took in a private viewing of the exhibition “Eero Saarinen and Washington: A Reputation for Innovation,” a showcase of the Finnish architect’s body of work, renowned for his iconic landmark buildings.
The exhibition, which will remain in the embassy until it’s move to the Smithsonian this fall, follows the designer throughout his career and features biographical anecdotes behind some of his signature works in American Modernism.
Chair of the YB Leadership Committee, Chris Byrnes, and Finnish Cultural Counselor, Pekka Hako, used the embassy’s wood and chrome staircase to address the crowd about the Smithsonian, the impact of Saarinen, and to encourage attendees to observe and appreciate his work.
Dr. Mina Marefat, curator of the Saarinen exhibit, delivered an impassioned speech of the artist’s influence and presented Hako with a gift for his dedication to the exhibition. Marefat is credited with recovering original sketches that Saarinen submitted in a national competition for a museum on the Mall (that was never to be) entitled “Smithsonian Gallery of Art.” Marefat’s discovery was paramount in initiating the exhibit.
The Young Benefactors, Washington’s premier museum-based philanthropic organization, boasts nearly 1,000 members and is able to commemorate this year’s anniversary by sending 16 disadvantaged local youths who applied for scholarship to the Culture4Kids Fund summer camp.
“This is a great way to get young kids involved in Smithsonian programs,” Stilwill said.
The most distinctive component of a Young Benefactors’ membership is the opportunity to stay involved. Members are given various possibilities of volunteer service and are privy to culturally engaging activities.
Patrons are encouraged to attend the “Voices to Access Volunteer Project” where Smithsonian recordings are packaged for more than 800 visually impaired visitors each month. The exclusive, docent-lead “Second Saturday Tours” allows YB members to fraternize with fellow participants while viewing different Smithsonian exhibits. And the not-to-be missed “New Member Dinner” provides a small group setting for chocolate-dipped fruit and lively conversation with some of the city’s brightest young professionals.