Galeria Alegria at 1924 Magazine was stirring with creature comforts in hues of blue two weeks before Christmas on Sunday, December 11, 2011. The gallery hosted an event designed to do what Owner/Artist Stephán Wanger loves best: bring people together, share talents and, most importantly, celebrate the City of New Orleans and her residents.
Local bartenders were invited to enjoy an evening of mixers. Everyone was offered the opportunity to create an original Mardi Gras bead mosaic of their own. Attendees could opt for a large martini glass, a smaller glass or a picture frame. Stephán and his talented apprentice Williams were on hand to offer glue gun assistance as well as expert advice on the bead art projects.
Bombay Sapphire provided an expert mixologist. Saying Miami Resident Gary Hayward knows his trade is an understatement. This Bombay Sapphire U.S. brand ambassador was one of the top three bartenders in the U.K. for three years. His natural British accent only added to the dashing Mr. Hayward’s presentation. Dapper in a dark suit and thoughtfully stylish with sapphire lapel pin, Gary was on fire as he provided sought-after refreshments for the busy crowd.
With an impromptu bar created from semicircular wooden panel rescued from a vintage float art warehouse and standing before “The Titillations of New Orleans” Mard Gras bead mosaic by Wanger, Gary was prepared to serve Negroni and Bee’s Knees cocktails mixed with his favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire.
Artist Stephán is known for recyling with style.
West-German born Wanger opened the festivities with a boyish smile. He extended a welcome to all and shared that Galeria Alegria Mardi Gras bead art mosaics were designed with the mission to promote New Orleans and Louisiana. He calls his exhibit “A Million Greetings from New Orleans.”
He discussed the “Taste of New Orleans” collection created through the hands of Rudolph Matas schoolchildren. Wanger continually extends to schoolchildren (as well any anyone interested) the ability to make their own bead mosaics and sell them at the gallery for full profit. The idea is to create art from recycled beads that would otherwise, multiplied through the years, create the same tonnage of waste as the BP Oil Spill. Even worse, the beads will not decompose. Even hazardous deep well oil eventually goes through a natural process of weathering.
The mosaic artist is currently working on a world-record breaking ‘postcard’ scene to be finished by January 26, 2012. Proceeds from sale of the piece will benefit the Lower 9th Ward through the Make It Right Foundation. The riverfront of New Orleans as seen from the city’s West Bank is signed by visitors to the gallery. Their signatures will be beaded as well, and the mural collection will tour Europe to promote awareness of the city.
Then there are Stephán’s other pieces which surrounded guests as they arrived. The dropped jaws in succession were a testament to the scope of work featured at Galeria Alegria.
Bacardi Special Events Manager Vanessa Miller worked with Stephán to arrange the evening. She was amazed by Wanger’s work. “It’s beautiful,” stated Miller. “I am originally from the Mid West, so seeing beads come to life again after Mardi Gras and be made into art is amazing.”
As bartenders and locals worked on their mosaics, they enjoyed a choice of the two cocktails blended with Bombay Sapphire by Hayward.
“I’m a Negroni girl,” declared Tamarind Bartender Kimberly Patton-Bragg as she worked on her mosaic creation. Of Hayward’s blend, she added, “It’s delicious. Equal parts. Good drink.”
Kristen Robin and Tony Scott enjoyed their Bee’s Knees.
Per Robin, “It’s really good. It’s refreshing.”
Scott agreed. “I’m mostly a vodka drinker but I feel it’s light and refreshing as well.”
When asked to describe the taste, Robin shared, “Citrus-y with a hint of sweet.”
Hayward was in the midst of a nation-wide promotion for Bombay Sapphire’s Artisan Series inspired by Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. Hayward travels to New Orleans three or four times a year.
“New Orleans is Home of the Cocktail,” said Hayward. “There is so much history here.”
For more information on Galeria Alegria, go to www.GaleriaAlegria.com.