Art Alive at San Diego Museum of Art

Vario was honored to be selected for the San Diego Museum of Art’s, Art Alive program.

A beloved tradition since 1981, Art Alive is The San Diego Museum of Art’s signature fundraiser and annual floral exhibition; bringing the Permanent Collection to life in a uniquely beautiful way and featuring more than 100 exquisite floral interpretations of famous works of art. The Art Alive Premiere Dinner is an intimate black-tie dinner that kicks off the Art Alive weekend, set inside one of the Museum’s permanent collection galleries. Attendees get a first look at the spectacular rotunda design and inspiring floral interpretations. The Premiere Dinner is exclusively for the Honorary Committee Premiere Patrons and supporting sponsors of Art Alive.

The Premier Dinner is the only event each year that is hosted inside one of the Museum’s gallery spaces and they aspire to wow their donors each year with a completely unique and special experience, themed on something on view in the Museum. For this year, they opened an exhibition of Nancy Lorenz’ artwork in conjunction with Art Alive called Moon Gold.  The event was set in a gallery adjacent to this featured exhibition of gilded paintings, sculptures and works on paper. The event was inspired by Lorenz’ use of mixed metals and her inspiration of traditional Japanese art forms such as inlaid screens and boxes. To bring her work to a large scale for the first time, we constructed a 360 projection room inside of one of the larger gallery spaces surrounding the dinner space. We created a custom projection real of her work offset by video of nature scenes and Japanese gardens, transforming the space with each new scene.

To accomplish this we constructed two 15’x45′ projection walls for the side surfaces, and utilized an existing 15’x60′ wall for the front surface. The technology needed included a custom built video server with dual GTX108 Ti Graphics cards, Intel i7-6700k Quad Core 4.5GHz Processor running Arkaos Media Master, a Hog 4 console, and fourteen (14), Panasonic PT-RZ12KU laser projectors. Part of the challenge was working with a building that was erected in 1926, and figuring out how to safely rig all of the components in the ceiling where no infrastructure previously existed. In addition, the side surfaces were designed for projection, whereas the existing wall was an off-white color and not reflective, so color balancing and brightness adjustments were a key component of getting the surface to look like one continuous, 150′ wide surface.

To tie the look together, a ceiling treatment was constructed of mixed metal and glass orbs that were referential to some of the motifs in Lorenz’ work and designed to provide the feel of being inside a champagne glass. The primary fundraising dinner sold out in record time, and the museum was once again able to exceed their fundraising goal by a substantial amount.

As part of the planning process it was imperative for Vario to understand the overall experience the event organizers wanted to create for the attendees. We decided on talent that fit the Museum motif, Human Statues, Living Trees, string quartets and a cappella performers who could take advantage of the resonate acoustics. Also incorporated was a dance band on a satellite stage that kicked off as soon as the program was over.

Vario’s ultimate task was to immerse the guests in a surreal environment, allowing them to live within the artist’s paintings and designs. The Museum presented us with unique constraints, and technological challenges, but in the end we were able to create a lasting impression on their attendees and donors, on time and on budget.

Our lighting rig was designed to illuminate two separate sides of the museum, one side for the program and the other for the dancing which took place the latter part of the evening. We also had over 100’ of throw distance between our projectors and the projection surfaces, two large walls, so 20k projectors and long throw lenses were required.

Time constraints, scope of services, and historical venue were three main factors that Vario was tasked to overcome. Not only were we able to accomplish all of these goals, but we also solidified our relationship with the end client, and have received numerous requests for service from venues around the country to provide similar services.


Double quotes image for testimonial Vario went above and beyond to capture my overall concept and vision. Our program takes months of planning, and there are a million moving parts, but Vario made it so easy and took a ton of stress off our team because of their professionalism, rapid response times, and amazing people. Our staff enjoyed interacting with all of their crew throughout the design, build, and execution phase, and our team and attendees couldn't have been happier with end result.
Sarah Grossman, Associate Director
Special Events and Corporate Relations

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