Events: The Gala “It” Venue

by Editorial

National Building Museum Director Chris Frame gives an inside look into the efforts behind creating a gala night to remember.

The National Building Museum transformed for the Honor Awards in 2010. Photo by Paul Morigi.

It’s impossible to make it through a gala season without attending at least one event at the National Building Museum, a popular venue in the charity ball circuit. Chris Frame, the museum’s director of special events, shows us how they make it work.

Washington Life: How many events are held at the museum each year? Each week?
Chris Frame: In a non-inaugural year we’ll host approximately 75 large-scale events. It’s seasonal, so our event season runs from September to December, then again from March to June. During the busy periods, it’s not uncommon for us to do five events in a week.

WL: What prompted you to open up the space for events?
CF: We have a long history of events in this building prior to being a museum, going back as far as Grover Cleveland’s inaugural so we were an event space long before we were a museum. However, there is also the obvious revenue stream from allowing events, which is why I think most museums rent spaces.

WL: What’s the biggest challenge of using a public space as an events venue?
CF: Trying to provide an event space to a client who has a limited amount of time to set up prior to the start of their program, while balancing the fact that we are a museum and trying not to disrupt the visitor experience.

WL: Describe the most outlandish event at the museum.
CF: We hosted an event three years ago that hired Cirque du Soleil to create a totally unique performance. A special stage was built with thousands of gallons of water coming down like a fountain in front, which served as a video screen. Performers jumped from platforms through the water and bounced off a trampoline back to their platforms, all while helium-filled, remote-controlled sea creatures were flown over the guests’ heads. It was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen.

Chris Frame. The go to man and Washington's go to event venue.

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