It was a dark night at the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club when Amy Steinhour walked into a gala with eight purple tentacles attached to her black gown. She was an opulent version of Ursula, the sea witch in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Her husband dressed as King Neptune.
“That was the most money I spent on a costume,” Steinhour said. “The theme was ‘Oceans Away’ and my husband and I wanted to kill it.”
Every year for eight years Steinhour has pushed her costume ideas to the limit for the annual Beaux Arts’ Ball.
“Before going I was not a ball girl, but this is just fun,” Steinhour said.
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This year is the Beaux’s 63rd ball, giving it the distinction of being one of the oldest costume parties in Miami, according group president Lani Drody.
“It’s a rich tradition,” Drody said.
This year’s ball will be held at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $300 and include food and drinks, a raffle and a silent auction. Proceeds will go to the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami.
All 125 women volunteers at the Beaux feel strongly about the museum and play a critical role in supporting the Lowe’s success.
“We all come from different backgrounds, and we came together to support the arts,” Drody said. “To be a member you have to serve on two different committees, donate two long, four-hour shifts during our Arts Festival, and contribute financially to the organization. It asks a lot from our members, but it’s a really fun and vibrant organization.”
The Lowe Art Museum showcases sculptures, tapestries, scriptures, photographs and paintings that stem from different regions around the world, like its Chinese funerary sculpture from the Tang Dynasty.
The Beaux also organizes outreach programs that share art history and education with students throughout Miami.
“One of the incredible programs we love is our HandsOn! project,” Drody said.
The project started in the late 1980s, and last year it brought nearly 700 kids enrolled in Title 1 elementary schools to the museum. Drody said next year they want to double that number.
“We really love our outreach programs and we want to keep expanding so more children can enroll,” Drody said.
Along with the Arts’ Ball, the Beaux also hosts its annual Art Festival at the University of Miami’s campus — a tradition since 1952.
Last year, the Beaux gave $1.5 million to the Lowe, and as a result the museum hired chief curator Jill Deupi, the former director and chief curator of university museums at Fairfield University in Connecticut.
“I’m humbled to have been entrusted with the leadership of such an important institution,” Deupi said.
Deupi aims to make the Lowe Art Museum more accessible to the public.
“Even though art is a shared language, sometimes people may feel intimidated,” Deupi said. “Sometimes they may face, not intellectual barriers, but financial barriers.”
She mentioned she is enthusiastic about a new donation from Verizon, which will introduce virtual reality to the museum.
“It’s a small robot that any user on the other end of a computer can control wherever in the world he or she might be. You can imagine this allows us to provide virtual tours,” Deupi said. “We hope to reach beyond those who are home bound and one day work with children in third world countries who may not have access or comprehend encyclopedic museums.”
As for the ball, Deupi is looking forward to the different costumes Miami residents come up with.
This year’s theme, “Come as You Art,” significantly represents the Beaux values. The costume ideas intend for attendees to dress as their favorite artists or art masterpieces.
Coco Torre and Amy Bales, Beaux’s creative chairs, crafted the set designs for the gala.
“We thought, ‘We’re an art museum, how could we not have thought of this before?’” Torre said.
Without revealing too much, Torre hinted at Van Gogh's Starry Night and said the centerpieces are based off nine different artists.
“We were very clever with our centerpieces,” Torre said.
Drody hopes to see some people dressed as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and other costumes reinventing artworks by Georgia O'Keeffe and Andy Warhol.
“As far as what to expect with costumes, that’s always a guessing game,” Drody said. “[Attendees] always go all out.”
If you go
What: Beaux Arts’ Ball.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 24.
Where: Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave, Coral Gables .