Art intersected with fashion in a big way at the For The Sake of Art gala and runway show at the Omni Hotel Friday night. The biennial fundraiser for The University Museum at Texas Southern University honored iconic Texas artist Kermit Oliver, a TSU grad whose work is a campus highlight, and avid Dallas art collector Shelby Marcus, who has championed Oliver's career.
It also provided an opportunity for creative designers to whip up wearable art based on Oliver paintings. The 10 finalists, selected by a panel of judges, thrilled the crowd with a runway presentation that showcased unique and innovative looks of wearable art.
First place went to Deanna Santiago, who created a pink paper dress of Bible verses topped with a see-through coat of pressed flowers. Nevelyn Williams, who by day is a security guard at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, took second place for a colorful skirt and blouse made with a pressed technique that was so beautiful it moved celebrity judge, designer Kevan Hall, to tears. (Other judges were designer Cesar Galindo, artist Michelle Barnes, fashion blogger Beth Muecke, and yours truly.)
Third place went to Andrea Giralt Brun, with a striking blue-and-yellow yarn-threaded skirt, sleeveless blouse, cape and matching purse. Most Creative Design went to Shirlette Thompson, who created a mini-dress of orange peels, while crowd favorite Carol Watson won the People's Choice award, based on audience texts, for a colorful reversible kimono ensemble.
Gala chair Merele Yarborough and University Museum director Alvia Wardlaw were thrilled that the evening raked in more than $200,000, a record for the event. The well-dressed crowd, who were asked to dress in "artful black tie," lingered around the silent auction items, including two packages of tickets to Beyoncé's September concert at NRG Stadium, donated by her mother Tina Knowles-Lawson, one of the evening's honorary chairs.
"All I can say is we've come a long way baby," Knowles-Lawson told the crowd, referring to the wearable art event, where she previously served as judge. "The creativity is unbelievable. Being a designer, I can appreciate how you can take hardly anything and turn it into something magnificent. That's what these people have done."
Oliver, who is known to be extremely shy, was a no-show as his award was accepted by his daughter, Kristi Oliver Pullings, and brother Karl Oliver. But Marcus was quick to sing his praises. She noted how her now-deceased husband, Lawrence Marcus, had recommended Oliver to officials at Hermès, where he remains the only American artist to create scarf designs for the French fashion house. (Oliver and Marcus attended an intimate dinner at the Hermès River Oaks store Thursday night as part of the celebration.)
"Lawrence saw in Kermit the things I had always seen," Marcus said. "I love Kermit Oliver's work."
In tribute to Oliver and Marcus, the Sacred Ensemble, featuring soprano Shana Mashego, performed a moving musical tribute, "What Wondrous Love Is This," based on the Oliver work, The Resurrection.
Also seen in the crowd were Dr. John and Lora Clemmons, Percy and Cheryl Creuzot, new Texas Southern University president Austin Lane and wife Loren, Hallie Vanderhider, Gayla Gardner, Yolanda Adams, in a beautiful blue gown designed by Hall, emcees Ernie Manouse and Joy Sewing, Winell and Doug Herron, Shelby Hodge and Shafik Rifaat, Roz and Alan Pactor, and Houston businessman Reginald Van Lee, an honorary chair whose foundation was a presenting sponsor of the evening, along with H-E-B. Van Lee, who spoke briefly to the crowd, had the best quip of the night as he promised a short speech.
"As Kim Kardashian told her first husband, this will not take long," he said.