On the evening of Friday, May 10th, banners were unfurled in Gould Court and Festa Romana, the annual Rome Program fund-raiser, was underway. Over 140 alumni and supporters showed up to sample the fine catering and bid on the immensely generous donations from friends of the program.
For over 42 years the University of Washington has sent a select group of architecture students to Rome for the chance study their craft in one of the most architecturally relevant cities in the world. This educational opportunity is a cherished memory for many UW alumni who also partook of the program when they were students.
This party is an important part of the Rome program. Over the past couple years, the program has seen its cost go up, like so many other programs here in the university. Festa Romana is an invitation to those that have come before us to give their assistance to the next generation of architecture and landscape students. One hundred percent of the profit goes directly to the students, helping them fund this international excursion.
Each year the Festa chooses a theme that is appropriate to the Italian flavor of the gathering. This year the film La Dolce Vita, directed by Frederico Fellini, was chosen as the organizing vision for the party. The choice for this movie was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the way that modern, glitzy Rome can transform people’s lives. For Fellini, it was a scathing satire of the debauchery to be found in Rome (though anyone familiar with Fellini will instantly cry foul at such a superficial reading of the classic movie), but to us, it is another way to pay tribute to the wealth of cultural riches that continually comes from Italy. It is another example of the relevance of artistic expression for which Italy is famous, and a sly nod to the idea that we will not come back the same person.
To help make this party exciting while also showing our appreciation to the people who will donate to the program, the students who were accepted into the Rome program put hours into the preparation and execution of the party. The days leading to the fundraiser had graduate and undergraduate students working together, designing decorations, printing programs, organizing the auction, deliver delicacies and managing the merchandise; not to mention manning the dessert and drink bar to ensure the party-goers were fully sated. As the designer of the graphics which decorated the banners, my job was particularly easy. The beautiful vistas of the Italian cities and the cinematic quality of La Dolce Vita gave me all the grace and visual interest needed to create a compelling setting. The setting of the auction itself was before a backdrop of the Trevi Fountain, a reference to La Dolce Vita’s famous scene involving the fountain and a particularly uninhibited actress.
But how did we do? The result was a complete success. While final numbers are not available at the moment, veterans of the fundraiser were quick to observe that this year people gave generously and often. Also, simply as a get-together, the party was fun and often a bit raucous. John Stamets took on the role of the paparazzi, a term which arose from a character from Fellini’s film. This naturally fit perfectly with his interests. He worked the red carpet, taking posed and candid shots of the guests. There was much hooting and hollering during the auction, with auctioneer Trina Deines playing off the energy of the room and the audience cheering on those who pushed the envelope on the bidding. Party-goers stayed late into the evening, catching up with old friends and instructors. Students milled about and connected with alumni and their instructors. A couple even broke out into an inspired bit of swing dancing. The night left everyone feeling exhilarated and the students excited for their upcoming experience in Rome.
Written by Shane Leaman
All photos by John Stamets