Interview with a Visionary Designer

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Renowned event producer and president/creative director of David Stark Design and Production, visionary designer David Stark will be kicking off the exciting education lineup at the 2014 Event Solutions Conference & Tradeshow with an inspiring discussion on creating incredible events. And he certainly has the experience to back it up!

Discover how David got started in the events business, where he finds inspiration and get inspired yourself by some stunning images from his past events.

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Event Solutions: How did you get started in the event industry?
David Stark: I got involved with events by accident. Upon getting my MFA degree in painting, I started working with flowers as a means to support my art-making habit – flowers for small weddings, birthday parties and weekly floral accounts. One project led to the next, they got larger and larger, until one day my former partner and I were invited to meet with the folks from the New York City Opera to discuss the décor for their gala. The chair of the event was Carolyn Roehm, a noted floral person in her own right. She took one look at our portfolio and said, “There is no question that you don’t make the most gorgeous arrangements, but this evening is not about flowers at all.” We were stunned. The light bulb went off. The world of possibilities opened up, and while I am sure that Carolyn has no idea who I am or remembers that moment, it was a life changing one for me. All of a sudden, I realized that events could be like living, breathing art installations. Flowers were just one of the tools in the tool box, but certainly not the ONLY tool.

The Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library was transformed into a formal French garden for an early fall wedding.  I have worked in this venue scores of times but always felt like we were missing something in our décor plan.  This is the first time I think we got it right partly because we embraced the architecture of the space as if it was a period conservatory.

The Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library was transformed into a formal French garden for an early fall wedding. I have worked in this venue scores of times but always felt like we were missing something in our décor plan. This is the first time I think we got it right partly because we embraced the architecture of the space as if it was a period conservatory.

ES: What do you do to make your events successful?
David: I dream big and I surround myself with people who are much smarter than I am.

15,000 Benjamin Moore paint strips create an undulating curtain above the dining tables for a Tate, Americas Foundation Gala. I’ve always been obsessed with these hardware store gems, and then it hit me: Why not turn them into the building blocks of the décor?

15,000 Benjamin Moore paint strips create an undulating curtain above the dining tables for a Tate, Americas Foundation Gala. I’ve always been obsessed with these hardware store gems, and then it hit me: Why not turn them into the building blocks of the décor?

ES: What do you think makes a good event producer?
David: Events are about things not working out exactly as you have planned them on paper.  When they do, it’s like the cherry on the sundae, but you can’t depend on that cherry! A good event producer thinks on their feet and finds solutions to the hurdles as the come.

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ES: What one event that you’ve had a part in has been your favorite?
David: Oh, I love so, so many of the projects that we have done over the years that I could not possibly pick a favorite, and I have been very fortunate to have had wonderful opportunities of all kinds! Many of the projects where the décor elements have a life AFTER our event are very meaningful to me. A case in point was the gala we did for the Robin Hood Foundation a few years back in which we built the décor out of a million dollars’ worth of donated items that the folks in the programs needed. Food, clothing, books, shoes – all started as radical installations that were not glued, nailed, screwed or harmed in any way during the event, then after, they were boxed right up and sent out. There was no waste and the reason why everyone came together that evening was implicit in the décor.

The Target corporation kicks of their Read Across America partnership on the steps of the New York Public Library where a giant R - E -  A -  D, constructed from 15,000 Dr. Seuss books stopped passersby in their tracks.  After the event, the books were donated to libraries and school across America.

The Target corporation kicks of their Read Across America partnership on the steps of the New York Public Library where a giant R – E -  A -  D, constructed from 15,000 Dr. Seuss books stopped passersby in their tracks.  After the event, the books were donated to libraries and schools across America.

ES: What is your go-to place for inspiration?
David: Oh, I look everywhere! My mind and eyes are open to everything in popular culture, museums, galleries, theater, film, travel, flea markets, hardware stores, books, the internet – E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Made from miles and miles of flagging tape, the word NEXT is suspended over the heads of the guests for an Israel Museum Gala focusing on what is next in contemporary art.  I love how much volume is created in the space with such low tech materials.

Made from miles and miles of flagging tape, the word NEXT is suspended over the heads of the guests for an Israel Museum Gala focusing on what is next in contemporary art.  I love how much volume is created in the space with such low tech materials.

ES: What new product or trendy materials are you using a lot of today? 
David: It’s not new, or even trendy, I think, but we are quite interested in flagging tape right now. (As you can see in the photo above!)

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ES: What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
David: It’s ok to break the rules but only if you do it incredibly.

Benjamin Moore’s table for DIFFA’s Dining By Design Gala was a kaleidoscope of color and texture.  A true art piece, the table and all of its elements were painted over and over again for several days straight, caught on video to show the many iterations of what the design was over that set period of time.  When the clock stopped, the design was finished.

Benjamin Moore’s table for DIFFA’s Dining By Design Gala was a kaleidoscope of color and texture. A true art piece, the table and all of its elements were painted over and over again for several days straight, caught on video to show the many iterations of what the design was over that set period of time.  When the clock stopped, the design was finished. Click here to view the time lapse of the event setup

ES: If you could design any famous event, what would it be and why?
David: I would absolutely love to design Christmas at the White House and the Costume Institute Ball at the Met. They are two very momentous occasions that are about the zeitgeist of style at their moment in time.

Left: I love an installation caught in a moment of magic.  Here, a journal full of meaning explodes at the entrance of the Joyful Heart Gala. Center: Flowers, fruits, and herbs are arranged with casual simplicity, the definition of chic for an outdoor wedding in Detroit.  The family has since become dear friends of mine, and I am really proud of the fairytale setting we created with them as a TEAM. Right: A project truly meaningful to me, for the Robin Hood annual gala, we created the décor entirely out of a million dollars’ worth of donated materials that program participants needed.  Here, a tornado of 5,000 Nike sneakers twisted to 30 feet in height during cocktails and right after the event, the shoes went to the feet of those that needed them most. 

Left: I love an installation caught in a moment of magic. Here, a journal full of meaning explodes at the entrance of the Joyful Heart Gala. Center: Flowers, fruits, and herbs are arranged with casual simplicity, the definition of chic for an outdoor wedding in Detroit. The family has since become dear friends of mine, and I am really proud of the fairytale setting we created with them as a TEAM. Right: For the Robin Hood Foundation’s annual gala, a tornado of 5,000 Nike sneakers twisted to 30 feet in height during cocktails and right after the event, the shoes went to the feet of those that needed them most.

ES: What excites you most about the year ahead in the event industry?
David: I look forward to creating new memories that people will remember for a long, long time.


ES: And finally, what do you hope attendees will take away from your session?

David: I hope to share my passion that ANYTHING is possible.

Learn more about what inspires David Stark at the 2014 Event Solutions Conference & Tradeshow during the Opening Session on Sunday at 4:45pm at the Paris Hotel Las Vegas. Register for the Conference now to be part of the excitement!

About the author : Event Solutions

Event Solutions

Since 1996, Event Solutions has been giving corporate, association and independent event and meeting professionals the resources they need to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the industry. From cutting-edge features on trends and technologies to behind-the-scenes profiles of some of the industry’s most prestigious events, we provide professionals with the resources they need to succeed.

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