Parties: Waterfront Revelry

by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

“Uplift” was an apt theme at the Exploratorium on May 6 for the return of its Party at the Piers fundraiser, which was led by event chair Jennifer Van Natta and raised more than $1 million for this renowned learning laboratory.

Founded in 1969 by famed physicist Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium engages kids of all ages in a joyful understanding of science with hands-on tinkering, mind-blowing programs and beloved installations like Ned Kahn’s “Chaotic Pendulum” and, just outside the museum doors, the beaming “Buckyball” LED light sculpture by Leo Villareal.

Funds raised during Party at the Piers provide STEM work experience for 25 high school students, as well as support new exhibitions, science teacher training and the Exploratorium’s popular After Dark Thursday Nights program, which engages 70,000 adults in playful learning annually.

Alfresco cocktails commenced under sunny skies on Pier 17. Inside, 300 guests gamboled about the galleries to learn how bubbles drift on air and tornados rise. The evening also starred McCalls dinners in two galleries, where programs were led by award-winning scientist Ainissa Ramirez in the Fisher Bay Observatory and, downstairs in a glowing Bechtel Gallery, by author and star stylist of Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness.

New Exploratorium executive director and CEO Lindsay Bierman expressed his gratitude to lead a place that “rewards authenticity and disruptive thinking,” he said in his toast. “The Exploratorium was born out of the disruptive idea that a museum can inspire a global movement of citizen scientists. Our continued mission can help anyone, anywhere, understand the very core and essence of our shared humanity through the integration of art and science.”

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