Children coming of age in the 1960s and ‘70s were fed a steady diet of Fluff, fish sticks and Westerns. Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) and Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne), despite their drunken debauchery, were the grittiest, sunburned heroes west of the Mississippi. As they battled against the gorgeous backdrop of the Sierra Vistas, another bad boy to the east, Vijay Verma (leading Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan), eked out a hard living as a smuggler in the gang-infested streets of Mumbai.
And yet, despite the stark contrast in culture, these films continue to share the cup of blatant romanticism -- and the costumes aren’t half bad either.
Which is why IS183, the Stockbridge-based art school, is honoring the two genres with the "Buckaroo Bollywood Ball" to be held at the Interlaken on Saturday, March 31. According to IS183 Executive Director Hope Sullivan, there’s nothing more intriguing than saris and cowboy hats as this year’s theme for its annual fundraiser.
"It’s always been a renowned event," she said. "It’s not your standard rubber chicken affair. The ball draws in a much more diverse population than an average gala. It’s also the largest collaborative art installation I’ve ever heard of."
It’s not as if this is the first IS183 party that has completely befuddled and intrigued the public. Over the last several years, the fundraisers have become notorious for their crazy themes, including Rock the Opera, Hair Ball, Radioactive Bodega and last year’s Anime Hothouse. Each year, it seems, the decorating committee is upping the ante while the public gladly follows.
"There are at least 30 people involved in the decorating, seven different chefs; we have a lot of key players who come from so many different sources," Sullivan said. "The outreach breadth of this thing is super. The people who attend are a great mirror to who supports the school and who puts the whole thing together."
In the case of the Buckaroo Bollywood, it takes a village of creatives -- chefs Brian Ahlberg and Kate Baldwin, Stockbridge Gas, Yankee Septic, a plethora of art instructors and a willing community -- to put the event together. But the effort is well worth the prize. The proceeds from the fundraiser go toward IS183’s Learning Through the Arts program, which reaches nearly 300 area kids at more than 12 different venues every year.
"Last year’s event brought in $72,000, and we’re hoping to get just over that this year," Sullivan said. "Thirty percent of the kids attend for free and 40 percent are subsidized in some way. That’s the lion’s share of the program. The success of this event is critical to the art school. It brings in at least 20 percent of our yearly revenue."
The numbers speak for themselves, but perhaps the most compelling agenda behind the fundraiser is the creativity it inspires. Karen Arp-Sandell is a 12-year veteran of and teacher at the school, as well as a pumped-up member of the decorating committee. She said the ball is a reflection of the need for creativity in the community as a whole. Plus, it’s just plain fun.
"This place is a real hub for artists. Our cultural economy is strong, and the arts are really appreciated," she said. "I feel like I’m with my tribe, with people who like to make things. It’s the kind of program that changes lives. With this event, we’re creating a huge stage and the finished product is wonderful."
Arp-Sandell won’t elaborate on the details of the ball (she doesn’t want to "ruin the effect when you walk in"); however, she did mention that murals, a changing screen backdrop, theme music, dancers and a giant elephant will be involved. That’s quite enough for Vicki Bonnington, a longtime supporter and volunteer for IS183. In fact, Bonnington, a former litigator for General Electric, several years ago made it a point to get involved with the art school as "a place to meet interesting people" in the area.
"The only people I knew in Berkshire County were the people I worked with," she said. "Then someone got me a gift certificate for a class at IS183 and every Monday night after work, even though I was totally exhausted, I would rush to my jewelry-making class at 6 and before you knew it, it was 9 o’clock. Art is about the process, yet people are really frightened of it and think they have no business trying it out. That’s like saying that the only person who can ride a bicycle is Lance Armstrong."
Much like her approach to art, Bonnington has no fear when it comes to rounding up a costume for the ball.
"The whole point of pulling a costume together is the creativity of it. It’s not a contest. It’s a rare opportunity to express your creativity. And it’s the life’s blood for the school," she said.
Bonnington should have no problem throwing the saddle on the elephant for this year’s theme. According to her, at last year’s Anime Hothouse, she gladly glued 1,000 paper flowers to a wedding dress for her costume.
"Gov. Patrick was in town for something else but he happened to stop by the party. When he saw my costume, he said, ‘I’m under-dressed,’" she said. "I said ‘Yes, you are.’"
The Buckaroo Bollywood Ball is happening on Saturday, March 31, at the Interlaken (former Desisto School) in Stockbridge. Ticket prices vary. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. and the dance party kicks off at 9 p.m. For more information on times, tickets and tips on how to put a costume together, visit