Production company DaVinci Fusion teamed with a number of scenic designers for the ultimate in worthy causes: The Academy of Friends’ Annual Academy Awards Night gala at San Francisco’s Concourse Exhibition Center. The event, organized by Lynn Winslow & Co., is the centerpiece of the organization’s fundraising efforts, which benefit Bay Area HIV and AIDS service organizations. What began as a small, private Oscar night party has grown to become a gala evening where guests gather to watch the televised ceremony then dine, dance and enjoy entertainment late into the night. Some 2,500 people attended this year’s event.

DaVinci Fusion served as lighting designers for numerous individual viewing spaces in the Concourse Exhibition Center, incorporating each decor designer’s needs into a general lighting plan supporting the evening’s theme of “Rubies and Rhinestones.” The eclectic spaces, where guests viewed the Academy Awards telecast, embraced the concept of real and not-quite-so-real luxury with environments reminiscent of Miami Beach, New York City and the ’60s, to name a few. DaVinci Fusion designed one of the environments itself, a slice of Americana in the shape of a diner with a full counter, walls, and windows with painted clouds. In the middle of the counter a 5x7-foot LED screen showcased the broadcast.

“Each of the spaces was very different depending on its location within the Exhibition Center,” notes DaVinci Fusion president Solomon Rosenzweig. “Some were mezzanines, some were on the main floor. Some rooms had walls, others didn’t. Some had low ceilings, others had towering 25-foot ceilings. As guests moved from space to space they got very different impressions. Each designer’s work had to be honored and its integrity maintained while effectively contributing to the gala’s theme.”

A consistent element from space to space was neon. “It’s one of my favorite materials,” notes Rosenzweig. “Neon creates a special kind of energy in party environments. No matter how you use it -- whether it’s forming the shape of a pink flamingo or outlining the New York skyline -- it makes a statement and calls attention to itself while establishing a real sense of place.”

The main room also featured post-show entertainment, which included showgirls, breakdancing youths, the San Francisco 49ers Cheerleaders, and Rat Pack-style crooners performing on 150-200 foot-long stages at each end of the room. DaVinci Fusion provided three large trusses loaded with moving lights of every type giving each performance area a full Las Vegas-type lighting treatment. The entertainers were also captured on video and projected onto a 15x20 foot video screen. DaVinci Fusion donated $20,000 in lighting equipment for the evening. “This was one of those events where we know our contribution made sense on so many levels. We had the opportunity to show our talents, our designs, our skills, give back to the community and have the opportunity to feel good because our contribution was so important. It was a home run“