Now that we’re deep in the hazy days of summer, there has been time to reflect upon the first half of the year in Toronto – in particular, on the city’s lively social scene. Between functions that fell flat, over-the-top galas that won’t be forgotten and fundraisers that generated important dollars, some events stood out from the rest.
One of them is the not-to-miss event of the year: Power Ball – which, to me, is Toronto’s unofficial summer kick-off event. Offering a perpetually unfolding sense of discovery, Power Ball takes over the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery for an indoor/outdoor sensory overloaded playground of an affair. The annual event is the gallery’s most important fundraiser.
Held on Thursday, June 6, Power Ball: 21 Club presented by Holt Renfrew invited the city’s finest social scene regulars and creative elite to experience an illicit speakeasy that celebrated Toronto’s most notorious art world characters with a flamboyant and fashionable affair.
For the VIP set, a pre-party reception began at 7 pm in the Royal Lepage Gallery, where Toronto artist and restaurateur Sarah Keenlyside transported guests into a space where the dance of service formed the centerpiece of a well-curated meal. The culinary performance and installation was complete with food by La Banane, Man Ray à vin and CXBO Chocolates, with drinks from FIOL Prosecco. Adding to the experience were things like a marching band and dancing waiters.
After 9 pm, the VIPS guests were joined by hundreds of editorial-worthy counterparts, who began to file in for the party portion of the evening. Upon entry, artist Sarah Zanchetta catered to the guests’ inner child and Instagram cause with her Sweet Digs installation for Bumble Bizz that featured a space filled with 300 colourful balloons. The installation set the stage for the evening; as usual, the stars of the show were the thought-provoking and photo-worthy art installations found throughout the sprawling space.
Artist Bruno Billio’s fluorescent Tron209 Room manipulated everyday objects and spaces with black light and masking tape to create a futuristic-looking room. A backdrop to many of the evening’s photos, the space got some neon-clad guests glowing in the dark and became a dance floor for most of the event.
Other installations included a commanding neon talking point, Tru Bruja, from Mexican artist Chelsea Culprit and Max Streicher’s large-scale inflatable, kinetic structures, Sleeping Giants.
A thoughtfully curated menu from Chase Hospitality Group ensured no guest went home hungry, with desserts by Ricarda’s and Krispy Kreme and libations from Spirit of York, Ace Hill, Pommies and Château des Charmes. Highlights included things like a large fondue fountain, freshly shucked oysters served on a grand piano by Chase Fish & Oyster, glow-in-the-dark treats from Planta and a shadowy food speakeasy by Arthur’s Restaurant that served up mini plates of comfort food (like the dreamy fried chicken) through compartments in the wall.
Adding a high-energy dose of colour and sass to the evening, the Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency curated a fun and fabulous cabal of Toronto’s drag queens and queer burlesque performers, who sashayed and stripped their way throughout the space, posing for photo along the way.
Other talking points of the evening included things like aerial acrobats dangling from chandeliers, an outdoor roulette table and music that kept guests out into the early morning hours. And yes, I can pretty much guarantee that the mild Friday morning hangover was totally worth it for everyone.
Photos by Nick Lee