The typical fundraiser is, well, all too typical: expensive tickets, fancy clothes, gourmet food at some hotel venue, and maybe some live music. Leave it to the artistic souls at the Princeton Arts Council, whose mission it is to support and nurture the arts in the greater Princeton area, to come up with not only an innovative idea for this year’s fund-raiser, but also out of the ordinary locations.

Dining by Design, on Saturday, October 15 (register by Saturday, October 1) will take place in the comfort of more than 25 historic or architecturally important private homes. Each will provide a unique "salon," or cultural and culinary experience. The evening will culminate in an after-dinner gathering of desserts, champagne, and dancing at Princeton Airport, which will be decorated to recreate Rick’s Cafe from the movie Casablanca, complete with a vintage bi-plane and a backdrop depicting a street scene from the movie.

Randi Lund, public relations director for the Arts Council, says that this type of event better fulfills the arts council’s mission by involving local arts and artists to perform, instead of inviting artists from outside the community. She stresses that the proceeds from this fund-raiser will not go toward the council’s capital campaign. Rather, all funds raised will added to the operating budget to subsidize the free community and youth programming, for which the council is known.

None of the homes that are participating have been publicly identified, and the attendees have no choice about which home or performance they are assigned to. Says Lund: "We are trying to match the attendees with homes and experiences that match their personal interests but at the same time, we’re trying to mix people up so they get the chance to mingle with someone new." The evening starts at 6 p.m. with the artist presentations, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. All attendees are required to deliver themselves to the airport by 9 p.m.

Though all the details are still being organized, it is likely that one home will be the site of a wine cellar party, another plans to serve the owner’s infamous chicken gumbo, and another has a Moroccan feast on the menu.

Princeton resident and co-owner of Twin Hens, a homemade chicken pie producer, Kathy Herring, is in charge of the entertainment with co-chair Anne Gossen in charge of planning the artistic experiences. Says Herring: "This will be one of the best parties in Princeton. There are so many artists and authors here. Princeton is such a resource for culture, and sometimes you don’t realize that until you get involved in an event like this. This one really mixes all generations, and you’ll get to meet people you wouldn’t normally see."

A home recently renovated back to its original 1910 condition will feature a meal representative of that time period. An historic farmhouse decorated with American antiques will feature a French dinner, while a European dinner will be served in a house furnished with Biedermeier furniture.

Guest artists include the Arts Council’s artist-in-residence, Thibaud Thiercelin and his artist wife, Lisa Salamandra, who will talk about their work; printmaker and Princeton resident Judith Brodsky, of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Prints and Paper; internationally renowned architect Michael Graves, and sculptor Rupert Getzen, who creates bronze figurative sculptures using the lost wax method.

On the literary scene, Princeton professor Anne Margaret Daniel will discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald’s descriptions of Princeton in "This Side of Paradise." College of New Jersey professor James Brazell will speak on "Poetry and Painting: The Case of William Carlos Williams." Chang-Rae Lee, author of the award-winning novel Native Speaker, will discuss fiction, while author Yael Goldstein reads from the forthcoming book, "Overture."

Musicians include Pulitzer-Prize winning poet and author Paul Muldoon, who will display another side of his creativity by playing an instrument. Carolyn Hoyler and Holly French of the French Hens will sing and play piano, while a harpist, pianist, and singer will perform songs by Cole Porter. Also planned is a presentation by John Marshall, a lyricist for the now-defunct band rock band, Phish, while somewhere across town, local film buff Chris Roberts will present Casablanca movie trivia followed by a movie-inspired dinner.

Back at Rick’s Cafe at the airport, a 1940s jazz band will entertain a crowd enjoying a champagne bar and desserts created by executive pastry chef Karen Childes of Village Bakery in Lawrenceville.

A silent auction is planned to raise even more money for the Arts Council’s programming. One package is comprised of a two-day tour of the Hudson Valley complete with a personal curator-led tour of the Storm King sculpture garden, a military historian-guided tour of the West Point Academy, and an overnight stay at an inn. Other items include a food tasting for four at the Lawrenceville Inn, and Lawrenceville artist Fay Sciarra is donating a limited print as well as a tour of her studio.

"While a lot of people who are friends of the Arts Council come every year," says Lund, "we’d like to see a greater representation of the Princeton community. This event provides a great and fun way to support the local community arts center."

Dining by Design, Saturday, October 15. Register by October 1. Tickets range from $150, $250, and $500; register by Saturday, October 1 by calling Lisa Salamandra at the Arts Council, 609-924-8777

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