British Invasion Party raises funds for the arts


Graig Shaak, center, associate director of the Florida Museum of Natural History, greets Nancy Perry, right, as Doug Jones, left, museum director, and Kris Shaak share a laugh at the British Invasion Party and Concert at the museum.

DAVID MASSEY/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2005 at 1:52 a.m.

There were Union Jacks, palace guards and blue martinis.

James Bond was on the big screen, and Beefeaters strolled the room.

Even a Beatles tribute band took center stage at the University of Florida's Cultural Plaza near SW 34th Street.

For more than five hours Saturday evening, Gainesville's elite rubbed elbows at the British Invasion Party and concert, a fund-raiser to generate cash for the Samuel P. Harm Museum of Art, the Florida Museum of Natural History, and the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Stars of local government, area artists and UF supporters crowded into the Harn for cocktails, the science museum for food and the Phillips Center for music and dance.

Michael Blachly, director of the performing arts center, said the evening was organized to help bolster the budgets of each of the three university institutions. Organizers said they hoped to raise $90,000 to split among each of the centers.

But more important than money, Blachly said, the event was "about raising friends" for UF's art-and-science trio.

"We're not totally funded by the university and the state," said the Phillips Center director, who was donning a vintage tuxedo stitched in Britain's patriotic colors.

"We need the community to understand that their support is important to us."

As grey skies dropped a steady drizzle over the Cultural Plaza Saturday - "It's kind of London-like," one guest noted wryly - Gainesville's brass showed their support in body, and with their wallets.

Judy Blachly, an event co-chair and Michael Blachly's wife, said each of the 600 guests had paid $150 to attend the gala, of which $100 was tax deductible and included a musical performance by The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band.

"When you listen to this group, it's like 'Ah,'" the '60s are back, the co-chair said of the Four.

Before the band was scheduled to perform, guests downed glasses of wine and congratulated themselves on a successfully-planned evening.

Some, like Doug Jones, director of the natural history museum, said the Invasion's turnout was significant for what it said about the Plaza's future. Only recently have the three centers pooled their financial planning resources

"This is a big fund-raiser, the biggest of the year for all of us," Jones said over the buzz of clinking glasses and party chatter. "The revenue that we earn is ... important."

Others, like Scott Wall, said they were just happy to live in a community where music, science and culture had a place.

"Two years ago, we got a Monet here in the Harn," said Wall, one of many guests dressed in British garb. (His happened to be an Austin Powers suit, complete with horn-rimmed glasses and a black wig.)

"It's outstanding that we have this wonderful center," he added, and "it's always nice when people want to enjoy the arts."

Greg Bruno can be reached at (352) 374-5026.

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