OAKLAND: The Art Deco Society of California was host to an evening of French-flavored elegance in the style of Les Années Folles. The Art Deco Society’s annual grand gala is about the celebration and preservation of the architecture, design, art, fashion, music and all things from the Art Deco era (primarily 1920s-1940s.) This year the event was held at the Bellevue Club in Oakland.
Paris circa 1920 was full of life post-WWI. It was Europe’s very pulse for creativity, diversity, and innovation in the arts. The architecture seemed to actually breathe and come to life. Fashion was finally coming out of the dark ages and celebrating the human form.
Jazz was at possibly its most interesting and controversial time of creativity, exploration, and composition. Artists found themselves free to break free from traditional conventions and truly explore the full range of their creativity.
Paris offered a welcoming place, regardless of race. You could be a black musician in Paris. Free to explore your music and craft without ridicule due to the color of your skin.
Thought provoking artists during this incomparable time included Sidney Bechet, Josephine Baker, Picasso, Chanel, Fitzgerald, Lalique and so many others.
The Art Deco Society in Oakland
The Art Deco Society’s mission is to carry on the spirit of an incredible time in history. Preserving the sights, sounds, activities, and tastes of this distinctive era.
The gala was held at the exquisite Bellevue Club in Oakland, California. The Club sits right on the water affixed to Lake Merritt, providing breathtaking views from every floor. Immediately guests take note of the design details of the building: the light fixtures, the crown molding, the archways, and the handrails going up the stairs leading to the party.
The gala starts off with an awards ceremony to recognize the vast efforts for the preservation of art deco. A few standouts include:
- Michael F. Crowe Award: Southwestern Law School; Bullocks Wilshire Building, Los Angeles, 1929: restoration and stewardship of this art deco icon
- Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, 1934: restoration and renovation of a 1930s former coffee factory into an industrial brewery
- Coit Tower Murals, San Francisco, 1934: 2014 restoration funded by the San Francisco Arts Commission
- Eclectic Architecture Award: El Campanil Theatre, Antioch, 1928: restoration and community use of the historic movie theater
- Jerry Wagner, A Lifetime of Preservation: a major collection of Pathex silent film, 1920s-1930s toy trains, a 1931 Cadillac and 1910 Julia Morgan home
Dressing the part
All the guests and attendees wear their very best era-specific attire. The gentlemen wear tuxedos, top hats and cufflinks and the ladies don their best gowns, jewelry and hair accessories.
Attendees truly have the sense that they’ve gone back in time. As if by crossing the threshold to the Bellevue Club, they’ve walked through a time portal.
With a glass of Champagne in hand, guests begin to stroll through the 2-level party, one room at a time. There is a silent auction to the left, featuring items such as 1920s furniture, advertising, barware and fashion from the art deco era.
Next is a grand room with towering ceilings, magnificent chandeliers, a Hearst-like fireplace and elegant furniture.
Les Années Folles
In the main ballroom, the Les Années Folles come to life. There is a lively band playing, Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, and the dance floor is packed.
“Josephine Baker” performs and riles up the crowd with lustful dancing and tongue in cheek lyrics and The Decobelles all women troupe performs “Mimi”. There is not a dull moment in the ballroom.
When there isn’t a scheduled performance, the dance floor is completely full with guests ranging in age from 25 to 75 dancing the classic waltz, Charleston, and Fox Trot. We even saw a few ‘jazz hands.’
The band plays one last heart-pumping, toe-tapping tune and the evening comes to a close. Auction bidders collect their spoils and thus ends another successful gala for the Art Deco Society. This celebration and recognition of noteworthy preservation and restoration activities in the state of California is complete and done with elegance in Art Deco style through fashion, song, dance, design, and architecture.
The Art Deco Society honors the aesthetic achievements of the first half of the 20th Century, especially the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, collectively known as the Art Deco period.
Up next is their annual Gatsby Summer Afternoon, taking place on September 9th, 2018 at the Dunsmuir Hellman Estate. For information on joining the Art Deco Society of California, the awards given at the gala or about their upcoming events, please visit their website.
About the Bellevue Club:
Originally the Women’s Athletic Club of Alameda County, 1926. The building was modeled on a “perfect French design of the Louis XIV and XV periods,” with the interior decorations inspired by Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.
The architectural firm of Roeth and Bangs with W.J. Keating Co. designed this stunning French chateau-inspired building. When its doors finally opened in 1929, members enjoyed activities ranging from swimming to fashion shows, to movie nights, afternoon and even classes such as ‘French Posture’ and ‘Creative Dancing.’
In the 1960s the club voted to admit men to its membership and changed its name to the Bellevue Club. Today, the Bellevue Club is one of the anchors of the Bellevue-Staten Historic Preservation District and is on both California’s and the National Register of Historic Places.
The Club also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Art Deco Society for stewardship and preservation.