- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Don't tell members of the Phillips Contemporaries that art aficionados hail solely from the silver-haired set.

The group, comprising Washingtonians mostly in the 20-to-40 age range, gathered Saturday to dispel such myths at its "Summer Swing Through the Americas," held at the Organization of American States. The music-filled evening, ostensibly a fund-raiser for the Contemporaries Photography Acquisition Fund, gave the juniors a chance to show their own sense of style.

Those attending might have disparate tastes in the arts, but most concurred that the building's Hall of the Americas provided an elegant setting few venues could match.

The festive mood certainly chased away gloom from the night's darkened skies for the 250 or so patrons who paid up to $90 to look at art and sample the food and music.

"This is definitely over the top," Contemporaries member Frances Wu said. "The OAS is really spectacular."

"It's gorgeous, and you're helping a museum. I can't see a drawback," noted nonmember Patricia Vanstory.

While accomplished swing dancers swayed to the beat of the J Street Jumpers, wallflowers nibbled on grilled corn and black-bean cheesecake, roasted onion tortillas and mango barbecued vegetables, courtesy of Cafe Midi Cuisine.

Emma Della Fina, an Italian diplomat, was pleasantly surprised to see so many young aesthetes collected in one place. "I'm shocked. Most of the time, they [art lovers] are pretty old people."

Val Pimeda, Miss Della Fina's dance partner and an international trade specialist from Chevy Chase, joined the Contemporaries to get involved in the local arts scene and support "one of the best collections in the area." While his attire was impeccably tasteful, other revelers took advantage of artistic license to display more colorful wardrobe selections. Conservative bow ties clashed with color-splashed cravats; the occasional tattoo blended with more fashionable dresses.

As one guest observed, the building's interior chamber, surrounded by fluted columns and cloaked in unobtrusive beige, was a perfect backdrop for the fashion parade.

The Contemporaries also expanded their oenological horizons at a wine tasting hosted by Michael Green, one of the owners of the new Grape Finds wine shop on Connecticut Avenue NW.

"You don't need a Ph.D. to taste a wine," Mr. Green said as party goers swished and spat out his well-received selections of Chilean and Argentine vintages.

The evening kept true to the Contemporaries' mission, which is "to create a lifelong friendship with the Phillips," said Adam Carter, the group's chairman since 1996.

Last year, the benefit generated about $10,000, and planners expected to ring up a similar contribution toward the acquisition of new prints for the museum.

Once funding levels reach $15,000 to $20,000, Contemporaries members will select new prints to purchase, joining their silver-haired peers in helping shape the collection.

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