At Museum’s uniquely intimate Italian gala, less is amore

PHOTO BY KAILA JONES

The recent Vero Beach Museum of Art 2021 Gala was an elegant, intimate and poignant affair, with a significantly smaller crowd thanks to the coronavirus, and with an emotional aspect caused by the recent passing of Judy Schneebeck, a generous patron of the arts and, for the past two years, gala co-chair with Dhuanne Tansill.

The Viva Italia-themed evening featured the return of American tenor Michael Amante, whose vast repertoire ranges from classical opera and songs from his ancestral homeland to Broadway and contemporary hits. Amante was joined by his frequent duet partner, the lovely soprano Marissa Famiglietti, who has soloed in leading operatic roles throughout the northeast.

Recognizing that their supporters have varying COVID comfort levels, the museum had given guests three options – a complete in-person experience; picking up their dinners from Elizabeth Kennedy & Co. Catering and viewing the performance live before going home to dine; or viewing and dining from the comfort of their own homes.

The masked crowd was considerably smaller than the hundreds who normally attend, but those who came appreciated that the Holmes Great Hall provided ample room for social distancing. The handsomely decorated room offered well-spaced tables, where red tablecloths were decorated with centerpieces created by Hutchinson Florist that featured tall pillars topped with red anthuriums.

In his welcome address, Brady Roberts, VBMA CEO, thanked everyone for their continued patronage during these difficult times.

“I have to say the community support has been just amazing, and we’re deeply grateful to all of you. Our co-chairs have worked with their committee through so many challenges and obstacles over the past year to create a very special and safe event for us,” said Roberts.

“This evening is dedicated to Dhuanne’s co-chair and our dear friend Judy Schneebeck, who passed away in December. Judy and Dhuanne chaired last year’s gala and were so gracious to agree to lead our effort again this year. As always Judy’s passion for the museum drove her to put her heart and soul into making sure that this gala will be superlative.”

Noting that Schneebeck had worked tirelessly with Tansill and museum staff, even when she wasn’t feeling her best, he added, “I’m honored and grateful for all the amazing work she did for this museum over so many years.”

“You all know that this has been an unusual year and we’re hoping that it changes and that next year we can go back to doing what we’ve done before. But I think that this intimate evening is going to be really fun; it will be like a nightclub,” said Tansill, in welcome.

Speaking about her remarkable co-chair, Tansill said their friendship went back to 18 years ago, when they first were involved with Riverside Theatre benefits, “because she and I love to raise money. I just want to say that she was one of the most beautiful people inside and out. She was always so friendly and always so willing to do whatever she could do to make things much, much better for all of us.”

Tansill explained that it had been Schneebeck who suggested Amante as the ideal performer for last year’s gala.

“And because he was so wonderful, we thought that since this is an Italian evening and his name is Italian, that we would have him back,” said Tansill. She added that the décor, too, was a nod to Schneebeck, explaining that as red was her favorite color, Tansill chose the spectacular red anthuriums.

Photos by Kaila Jones

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