Party by Design

Modernism Week’s opening soirée raises the bar every year.

Lydia Kremer Modernism

Last year's opening night party was held at TheBank Palm Springs, a historic building built in 1955 by desert modernist architect E. Stewart Williams.

Modernism Week’s opening-night party has firmly established itself as an off-the-hook, lavish affair. But it wasn’t always that way.

Like Modernism Week itself, the opening party has evolved from kindergarten to graduate school in its 14 years, becoming one of the city’s hottest tickets and setting the tone for the event’s 11-day run. This year’s After Dark party is set for Feb. 15 at Indian Canyons Golf Resort. We spoke to Modernism Week CEO Chris Mobley to find out what happens behind the scenes.

Palm Springs Life: How do you ensure that the opening night sets the tone for the following 10 days?

Chris Mobley: Each year we pick a distinctive and architecturally significant venue for our opening-night party. After we secure the building, we meet with our event planner to create an event that reflects the nature of the building and reimagines an event you might attend in the 1950s or 1960s.

See related Modernism Week story: Catch a Wave

PSL: What is the thought process in selecting the venue?

CM: We try to pick unusual (and sometimes unexpected) event locations that have a connection with midcentury modern design and architecture.


We like to create an environment that highlights the venue while creating an upbeat, memorable, and entertaining start for Modernism Week.

PSL: What can guests expect this year?

CM: We are excited about this year’s event at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort. The building is a legend in its own right. It was designed in 1962 by famed Palm Springs modernist architects Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison. The original Canyon Country Club (as it was then known) has a “pedigree” as a favorite spot of Hollywood icons, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Walt Disney, and Dean Martin.

Modernism Week After Dark will be a swanky, red carpet, retro affair that kicks off Modernism Week 2018. Vintage style and authentic swagger will enliven the party as our guests channel their inner Marilyn, Sammy, or Hefner for a night of entertainment, high style, and glamour.

This spectacular evening will be over the top, with expansive indoor and outdoor lounges, abundant and decadent hors d’oeuvres provided by Lulu, open bar, and specialty Rat Pack-era cocktails with Hendrick’s Gin. We are thrilled that our favorite retro-rockers, the Dreamboats, are back again by popular demand. We will also feature the talented DJ Baz so our guests can dance the night away.

PSL: Every year the opening-night parties seem to get better. How does the Modernism Week staff and board keep upping the ante?

CM: A lot of caffeine! We know that this opening event sets the tone of the 11-day festival, so we take great pride in crafting an experience that not only wows the attendees but also makes them desire to attend more events. The size of the event varies each year based on the setting, but this year we are so excited that the Indian Canyons Golf Resort can accommodate a large number of guests.

See related story: Modernism Week 2018: What's New?

PSL: How has the opening night evolved in terms of attendance, scale, sponsors, and location?

CM: The parties have continued to evolve to the lavish event it is today. In 2014 we held the event at Caliente Tropics and called it “Modern Mambo.” In 2015, our 10th anniversary, we debuted the central meeting space we call CAMP and held the opening-night party there (“Modernism Eclectic Dance Blast” with KCRW’s Jason Bentley). In 2016, CAMP was located in the historic 1957 J.W. Robinsons Department Store by Pereira & Luckman, and the event was titled “Hollywood in Palm Springs.” Last year, we held a spy-themed opening-night party at TheBank Palm Springs, a historic building built in 1955 by desert modernist architect E. Stewart Williams. Guests enjoyed the classic revelry of Palm Springs, with homage to its midcentury modern design heritage and a nod to its glamorous legacy.

PSL: What prompted the decision to take the opening party to the next level?

CM: The decision to grow this event happened organically, like the entire festival. As more and more people began to attend, there was a greater need to provide exciting events. Offering a spectacular opening-night party seemed like the right idea, and it has certainly become a hallmark of the 11-day festival.

PSL: What kind of feedback did you receive from last year’s James Bond-themed party?

CM: It was fantastic! The “spy” at the doorway and the starlet floating in the giant martini glass were two audience favorites. People simply loved dancing to the Dreamboats, so we asked them to come back as our performers again this year. We are delighted to work on this party with event planner Frank Goldstin of Momentus, the premier Palm Springs event planning, design, and production firm that specializes in the creation of unforgettable events.

PSL: The opening night serves as a fundraiser for Modernism Week. Based on past events, what are the expectations this year for attendance and funds raised?

CM: The capacity of the space is around 500, and we are confident that tickets will sell out. Modernism Week is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization, and the funds we raise from events like this help us to provide scholarships for local Palm Springs students pursuing college educations in the fields of architecture and design.

Modernism Week Opening Night Party, 7-10 p.m. Feb. 15, Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Palm Springs. Tickets: