“There are limited options for the fine citizens of Grand Rapids to get super dressed up and have a good time,” says Adrian Butler, local DJ, event consultant, and fashion designer. Butler, a Grand Rapids native with a passion for self-expression, has noticed that the River City, in all its recent progression and infusion of artistic events, still has few spaces for dressing to the nines. Having recently attended a production of the Lion King at Broadway Grand Rapids and noticing that few of his fellow attendees wore formal dress, Butler was further inspired to craft an event for West Michigan supporting self-expression, while also serving as a fundraiser for a good cause.
Enter Gala 2020, the first annual fundraiser hosted by Butler and Jonathan Jelks (you’ll recognize Jelks from a slew of his own local ventures like Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge, Motu Viget, and the Th Midwest Tech Project). Partnering in the year-long planning process of Gala 2020, Butler and Jelks combined their business acumen with experience in entertainment ventures to create an evening that included free-flowing champagne, hors devours from local restaurants like Forty Acres and Winchester, a fashion show, and dare we say it — even dancing.
Gala 2020 took place on Friday, February 7 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and featured some of the most beloved names in Grand Rapids entertainment, art, and activism. “There’s people from every walk of life,” says Butler, laughing as he adds, “It sounds corny to say that ... but that’s what it is.” And he wasn’t wrong. Local designers like Jeffrey Roberts and musician Lady Ace Boogie were in attendance, as well as Andrea “SuperDre” Wallace, Festival of the Arts Executive Director David Abbott and Alysha Lach White, founder of Little Space Studio.
“I love to see people from diverse backgrounds getting together and having a good time,” says Butler.
Describing the evening as a “dance party disguised as a gala,” Butler says he “ wanted to do an event where people could get dressed really well and express themselves.” And unlike many fundraising events, with ticket prices starting at $100 and higher, Butler and Jelks set a lower than average entry fee at just $50, with proceeds benefitting the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
Upending the traditional fundraiser structure, Butler and Jelks set a new standard in Grand Rapids for a party for a good cause; raising money for a nonprofit and creating a space for equity and self-expression was at the heart of this first annual event. “We definitely want to have fun and we really want to celebrate the diversity of the city,” says Butler.
Below, you'll find just a few of the citizens, small business owners, artists, and activists in attendance at Gala 2020.
From left, Bradley Heartwell owner of North Town Real Estate and Kerri Heartwell owner of Bradley Salon with Tommy Allen of Rapid Growth Media.
Nathan Beene with Building Bridges.
From left, Devin Rittenhouse, Gina Schulz and Katie VanDoeselaar with the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
From left, Corinthia Croom, Naomi Silas of Seventh Creative and Kayla Morgan owner of Resilient Roots Yoga.
Jesse and Elizabeth Hernandez.
From left, Gabrielle Larion and Anna Hodsdon with Endless Model Management.
David Abbott, Executive Director of Festival of the Arts.
G Foster with Diatribe and Drunken Retort with Amy Merlington.
From left, Sofía Ramírez Hernández of Sofía Draws Every Day and Cook Library Center of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, Shé Mohan of Outdoor Afro - GR and Esmeralda Garcia of Cook Library Center of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.From left, Rob Peter Anthony and Jim Czerew both of radi8er Music.
Jermale and Anissa Eddie with Malamiah Juice.
Alysha Lacy-White and Kevin White with Little Space Studio.
Jenn Fillenworth from Jenny with the Good Eats
From left, Anna Beaten, Amelea Gritter co-founder at Common Notice and Jane Timmer.
Anna Moore, left, and JoLee Kirkikis both with Artprize.
Dan Adams with GRPD and Stephanie Adams with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.