Friday, July 13, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama Salutes Creative Geniuses At 2012 National Design Awards Lunch

"All of them have done something really good for our country and our world," Mrs. Obama says. "Their work affects just about every aspect of our lives"...
First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed more than 120 guests to the White House on Friday for a luncheon celebrating the 2012 National Design Awards from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. Clad in a white sleeveless sheath dress and a statement necklace laden with large gemstones for the 1:00 PM event in the East Room, Mrs. Obama paid tribute to the creative genius and hard work of the honorees, who came from ten disciplines ranging from architecture to fashion design. (Above: Mrs. Obama with Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough)

"Every day, these visionary designers are pushing boundaries, creating and revealing beauty where we least expect it, and helping us all lead healthier, more sustainable lives," Mrs. Obama said. "From the clothes we wear to the technologies we use to the public spaces we enjoy, their work affects just about every aspect of our lives."

The three-course menu, created by Executive Chef Cris Comerford, was anchored by Reggiano crusted Chesapeake Rockfish, accompanied by glazed Porcini mushrooms and Salsify, and Barolo Risotto. Guests were also offered a vegetarian entree, Garden Vegetable Lasagna. The starter was Carpaccio of Fennel, and Executive Chef Bill Yosses created a Lemon Marjolaine for dessert, with a Bing cherry sauce and peach sorbet.

Flanked during her remarks by Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough and Cooper-Hewitt acting director Caroline Baumann, Mrs. Obama praised the nonprofit firm Design that Matters in Cambridge, Mass, winner of the award for Corporate and Institutional achievement. Mrs. Obama hailed as "revolutionary" the firm's design of a neonatal incubator made of spare car parts, and a projector for nighttime adult literacy classes in Africa.

Lifetime Achievement honoree Richard Saul Wurman is an architect and author who created the popular TED conferences, and he was seated at the First Lady's table in the center of the room. Mrs. Obama declared Wurman "quite dashing and sassy" before she pointed out that he has devoted himself not to fame and fortune, but  to projects designed "just really to do something good." (Above: Wurman at the lunch)

"That is the defining characteristic of today’s honorees. All of them have done something really good for our country and our world," Mrs. Obama said.

Fifteen high school design students were invited as Mrs. Obama's special guests; they had rubbed shoulders with the honorees in the morning during a Teen Design Fair at two Smithsonian museums in DC.

"What you guys have to understand is that these honorees weren’t born brilliant designers. They became brilliant designers because they worked hard," Mrs. Obama told her youngest guests.

"You all are here today because we believe in you--and that’s really important for you to know," she added.

The other guests at Mrs. Obama's table included Wurman's wife, novelist Gloria Nagy; Product Design Award winner Scott Wilson and his wife Nicole Wilson; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; Jury Chair for the Awards John Jay, Global Executive Director & Partner, Wieden & Kennedy;  Jennifer Lema, a senior at Art & Design High School in Manhattan; and Clough and Baumann.

Other honorees attending the luncheon included Design Mind winner Janine Benyus, Communication Design winner Rebeca Méndez, Fashion Design winner Thom Browne, and Interaction Design winner Evan RothRead their bios here. Cooper-Hewitt selected Red Burns, arts professor and chief collaborations officer for the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, as this year’s Design Patron. (Above: Brown)

Target is one of the major sponsors of the awards, launched in 2000 with First Lady Laura Bush as patron.  Friday's luncheon was Mrs. Obama's fourth for the design winners.

2012 National Design Awards Luncheon Menu

Carpaccio of Fennel
Apples and Arugula
Apple Cider Gastrique

Reggiano Crusted Rockfish


Garden Vegetable Lasagne
Glazed Porcini Mushrooms and Salsify
Barolo Risotto

Lemon Marjolaine
Peach Sorbet
Bing Cherry Sauce

The decor in the East Room was understated and chic, with 15 tables seating between 8-10 guests, each covered with silver-grey tablecloths etched with line drawings of flora and fauna. The dark wood ladder-back chairs had purple silk cushions, and the menu/program that awaited each guest had a deep magenta cover, with the gold Presidential seal in the center. Both the Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush formal china were used. (Above: A table detail before the guests arrived)

The flower arrangements on the tables, created by chief floral designer Laura Dowling, were low gold vases that included an assortment of green, orange and yellow sunflowers, peach and magenta roses, magenta peonies, carnations, and greens. The floral arrangements on mantels and windows were simple but dramatic pots of green ferns.

The transcript of the First Lady's remarks.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama