Tuesday, December 20, 2016
I was commissioned to sketch at the Kessler Corporate Christmas Party held in the Devos room in the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 S Magnolia Ave, Orlando, FL 32801). C'Nergy was the local band offering cover tunes for the evening. I arrived early entering the venue through the loading docks. My art supplies made it through security with no problem. The Devos room is on the third floor above the Center's entry area. Glass walls surround the room on three sides offering an incredible view of the new plaza outside the Center. In June thousands gathered in that plaza to morn the loss of 49 of our own to gun violence. Candles flicked above the crowd. One glass wall slid open and I had to walk over to look. The green expanse of a lawn was now empty and silent. The sky was a deep ultramarine blue with flickering stars. A woman next to me said, "Don't jump." I laughed and joked that with my luck, I'd probably only break a leg. With that theater reference under my belt, I returned to my sketch.
Several Kessler Collection employees stopped to ask questions as I worked, it turns out I was on the program... "Experience the works of illustrator and journalist Thomas Thorspecken. He's a talented local artist who sketches stories of Central Florida's community daily in his popular blog." I was surprised that the MC announced me as well and I waved as people turned to look at me. After the cocktail reception, everyone was invited to find a table so the party could get started. Mr Kessler was at the front table, but his table wasn't full. Most of the other tables were full. The MC insisted that people move in closer to the stage. "We are going to have to do a training exercise if people don't move closer, Mr. Kessler doesn't bite." Finally several couples moved to the front table.
An executive in bright red shoes introduced a party game he devised. He wanted each table to come up with a fun reason why it is a unique experience to work for the Kessler Collection. Two of the tables on stage left got their submissions in right away. He got back up to the mic later in the evening to scold the other tables who hadn't yet participated. After endless raffle prizes, he pointed out that there were only five raffle tickets unpicked and so he advised that "If your ticket wasn't picked, you shouldn't play the Lotto."
Mr. Kessler got on stage. The big announcement was that the Plant Riverside development was underway in Savannah Georgia. The one time I visited Savannah, I stayed in a Kessler historic home right on one of the many public parks in a city. With gorgeous art, and gorgeous historic architecture, it was a wonderful place to stay. The Plant River side construction will take 24 months at a cost of 217 million dollars. Apparently there were many hurdles along the way. One Kessler employee said that he attributed his grey hair to the endless negotiating. Patience and perseverance eventually made the dream a reality.
The 1912 Georgia power plant located on the west end of River Street in the National Historic Landmark District is being revitalized into an ultra-chic hotel delivering an electrifying Hostess City experience.
• 422 beautifully appointed, luxury guestrooms and suites
• Over 26,000 square feet of stylish meeting and event space
• More than 11 upscale food and beverage offerings
• Live music and entertainment venue
• Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park
• Rooftop bar overlooking the Savannah River
• Curated wine tasting and interactive blending experience
• Grand Bohemian Gallery and diverse retail outlets
There was an awards ceremony for staff that went above and beyond the call of duty. The one person I met at the event, Leile Ahlstrand, won the highest honor. She welcomed me warmly and instantly made me feel at home when I entered the Devos room, so I understand why she was honored that night. My sketch was complete. As the band started playing again, I made my way to the front table to show Mr Kessler the final product. My timing was a bit off since I had to shout over the music. He seemed to like the sketch and I explained the I would be writing an article. Then I found Leile and let her know that I was finished. We chatted for a bit. She was glowing as if she had just won an Oscar. None of the recipients had taken time at the mic to thank everyone who made the award possible. There was probably time for a second sketch, but my legs were tired from standing. I also wanted to get home to have a bite to eat. On the walk back home I passed artists set up on the sidewalks of Thornton Park selling their art. Christmas lights illuminated white tents. It was quite festive, another sketch opportunity, but it was getting late and they were starting I break down. Besides I was over dressed.