How The Eye Ball turned into one hell of a tea party
A futuristic escape room? A robot garden? A pinball tournament? Rumors flew regarding the theme of the sixth-annual The Eye Ball as guests received their first clue: invitations in the form of clear, Lucite puzzle mazes with a peony in the center. A single phrase, “Get Lost,” was scrolled across the top.
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the season, The Eye Ball is sponsored by Headington Companies, proprietor of The Joule, and serves as the grand finale for Dallas Art Fair—a celebration for visiting gallerists, international artists, and locals alike.
Inclement weather (insert mandatory joke about springtime in Texas) forced festivities to be rescheduled from Saturday night to Sunday morning. The unplanned change of events turned out to be a happy accident; the mood couldn’t have been better suited for Sunday’s brunch affair.
In years past, The Eye Ball has transformed the lawn in front of downtown’s iconic Eye sculpture into a magician’s playground, a Dias de los Muertos fest, an ’80s bash… This year the party hopped the pond for a post British garden party—with an irreverently playful edge.
Case in point: attendees were greeted (via surreal hands protruding from the hedges) with a gift custom made by Dallas-based Vulgar Tea Cups. The delicate fruit- and floral-print china offered a bit of cheekiness with phrases like “Eff All Y’All,” “The Eye Ball? Brilliant,” and “You’ve Been Poisoned”. Very nice—a little naughty.
A towering rock-n-roll princess in a ball skirt poured the morning’s signature “tea”—a fresh-squeezed mimosa. Drinks in hand, guests wound through the maze while uncovering hidden doors and surprises along the way, including a secret phone that connected to an iconic red phone booth on the other side.
“As an outdoor event, the idea of a garden party has always been a natural place to go, and the space practically begs for a maze,” says Jeny Bania, Headington Companies Vice President of PR and Brand Marketing. (Note to other ambitious party planners: the maze was custom built by the local wizards at Planet Productions. It can be reconfigured on a larger or smaller scale for future events—one more reason why The Eye is the most imaginative and unique event space in Dallas.)
While florals by GRO Floral and Event Design were a visual treat, the unexpected scent of cherries filled the air. Its source? A tiny neon-lit room hidden within the maze filled with fuchsia shag, cherry scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, and a gigantic inflatable poodle.
A few of our local favorites took the stage throughout the day: singer-songwriters Sarah Jaffe and Kirk Thurmond; ‘80s yacht-rock tribute band The Rich Girls; and former American Idol contestant Tippy Balady. All-vinyl DJs from The Good Taste Collective spun in between sets. (You can catch them at their regular weekly every Sunday on the patio at Wheelhouse!)
Proper British fare (fish and chips, tea sandwiches, sticky toffee pudding, and Pimm’s Cups) was passed alongside trippy, Technicolor treats like blue-dipped strawberries and rainbow layer cake.
And while The Eye itself is usually the most Instagrammed object downtown, the ultimate photo op of the day was in the Ames room, which created the optical illusion that people in the photo appeared to be of dramatically different sizes. “We try to do the unexpected each year by playing with perception. The Eye sculpture is always there reminding me to challenge how we see things—through scale, illusions, and surprising reveals,” says Bania.
A close second to the photo booth would be the selfie-wonderland bathroom, which was completely covered by Swoon, The Studio with a floor-to-ceiling florals—down to the urinals in the men’s room. Clearly, no detail left unconsidered.