The Calgary Library Foundation Lit Gala began as a once-in-a-lifetime fundraiser that lit up the Calgary Central Library to celebrate its grand opening. Now, we find ourselves in a bright new chapter, throwing the gala once again to raise funds for the Calgary Public Library Foundation.
Guided by the hyper-visual Graphic Novel concept, the design needed to be elegant, transformative, and weave a captivating story. With an unconventional venue as the stunning backdrop, we leaned into colour (and a strategic lack thereof) to bring the bold vision to life.
Guests walked in on a vibrant purple carpet, bringing in the Foundation’s brand values, with the library facade above lit up with textured lighting that immediately set the tone. Inside, Orange Frog Productions used lighting to shift the three floors of activations from near black and white to full colour, transforming the ambience and tempo by the hour as guests descended through the space.
Leaning into the idea that a graphic novel is a story that shows as much as it tells, the physical decor featured lanterns wrapped with building decals, custom pillows, spider-like side tables, and black-and-white fixtures with dots and colourful accents to pull guests into the pages of an old-school graphic novel.
With this year’s gala raising funds for the Calgary Library Foundation’s free and accessible children's programs, we made the existing Children’s Library a focal point of the evening by transforming the space into a nostalgic celebration of childhood that invited guests to linger. Hotel Arts drove it home, serving up Dr. Suess’s famous Green Eggs & Ham (deliciously devilled in this case) and a childhood favourite, mini fish and chips.
Throughout the night, the menu continued the immersion as guests nibbled on canapes like “Rivers of London,” a grazing table aptly dubbed “Graze Expectations” by Hotel Arts, paired with cocktails by Vine Arts.
Fuze Entertainment knocked it out of the park with an incredible lineup of performances that lit up the library with sights and sounds you would never experience during quiet reading hours. The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Opera, dancers, drummers, DJs and beatboxers filled the space with energy, winding up and down the staircases, between the bookshelves and on the main stage.
The bold graphic feeling was carried through to the photo op as guests arrived at the full-colour lower level of the library. Stacks of books offered a spot to strike a pose right in the middle of the party, permanently bookmarking each guest's moment as the main character in their night.
To create engaging fundraising without distracting from the main storyline, we invited guests to a Blind Date With a Book. We paired prizes with library books, wrapped them to conceal the cover and wrote a few words giving clues to the prize—and the book—inside. Purchasing a blind date secured a fantastic prize and gave guests a chance to put the library book on hold if it piqued their curiosity, keeping literacy at the core of the activation.
Not only was this an opportunity to flex our design chops in a unique space that is not the first place you think of for an event, but it was also a success story in raising funds for the Calgary Library Foundation.
“Literacy won that evening as we raised more than $600,000 for children’s programs, services and spaces at the Calgary Public Library,” reflects Tracy Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Calgary Library Foundation.
Like a well-loved novel you keep returning to, the gala is set to be an ongoing story of literary magic and community support revisited year after year.