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Bowers Shines at Inca Festival of the Sun

September 14, 1993|KATHRYN BOLD

"Inti Raymi--The Inca Festival of the Sun" proved the perfect theme for a Saturday gala under the stars at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana.

Organizers chose the theme for the Bowers' annual La Fiesta fund-raiser to tie in with the opening of the museum's new exhibit, "Peru Before the Inca: Ancient Artworks From the Permanent Collections." About 350 guests paid $150 each to attend the gala, raising more than $50,000 in net proceeds for the Bowers' education programs for children.

Dinner in the Andes

Gala committee members chose food, music and decorations that reflected the spirit of ancient Peruvian celebrations, while making a few key concessions to modern times.

"They actually performed a lot of animal sacrifices; we won't do that tonight," said Sharon Esterley, co-chairwoman of the gala with Phyllis Henderson.

While guests wandered through the museum show during a champagne reception, they were serenaded by a four-man ensemble that performed Peruvian music.

Later, they were seated outdoors in the museum courtyard at tables adorned with cloths and napkins in bright colors. They watched the Inti Raymi Dancers perform traditional dances in colorful costumes before being served a dinner of near-authentic Peruvian dishes.

John Sharpe, chef at the museum's Topaz Cafe, prepared marinated grilled swordfish on a bed of onion, pepper and tomato relish with shoestrings of yucca and quinoa pilaf--a Peruvian staple. Dessert was an exotic compote of spiced purple corn, pineapples, pears, peaches, quince and cherries.

Guests finished off the evening by dancing under the stars.

Growing Reputation

It's been nearly a year since the Bowers reopened after a lengthy renovation, and museum officials had reason to celebrate. The museum was named one of the nine "must-see museums" in the United States by U.S. News & World Report in a July issue.

Guests were impressed by the museum's treasure trove of Peruvian artifacts, which include centuries-old textiles so finely woven they looked like they were made by machine, not by hand.

"I've seen as much good art here as I've seen overseas. We have things from all over the world," Henderson said.

Party-goers also admired the elaborate feathered bird costumes featured in the museum's "Arts of the Amazon" exhibit.

Paul Apodaca, curator of Native American art for the Bowers, pointed out a few highlights in the colorful collection, including a pair of long dangling earrings made from hundreds of green beetle wings--an accessory one isn't likely to find at a department store.

"This is a place where you can learn about other cultures," said Sharon Jaquith, the evening's honorary chairwoman and trustee of the Leo Freedman Foundation that made a $1-million grant to the Bowers.

"I came and visited the museum when it was newly renovated and there was no art inside. I sat on that balcony (in the courtyard) and fell in love with it."

Other faces in the crowd were: Peter Keller, the museum's executive director; Armand Labbe, chief curator; Patricia House, director of development; David and Ruth Siegle, president of the Bowers board of governors; Buzz and Lois Aldrin, Frank Arensberg, Virginia Knott Bender, Charlie Dante, Robert Gumbiner, Donna Karlen, Josie La Quay, Peter and Mary Muth, David and Diane Ream, Priscilla Selman, Robert and Peggy Sloves, Lou Spisto, Larry and Rosemary Sporty, Arthur and Hallie Strock, Roger Torriero, John and Carole Van Houten and Dan and Leslie Young.

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