Ask the Expert: Ari Fason of Tabriz

As the event planner for Tabriz: Auction in the City, Ari Fason is charged with turning the Arkansas Arts Center galleries into the streets of New York for their biennial fundraiser.

How do you brainstorm a theme for an event?

I find that, more often than not, a theme falls into my lap. If you focus on what the event is and who it’s for — a birthday party for your Disney-loving daughter, a retirement party for a golf-fanatic uncle, a silver anniversary gala — you’ll find the theme is waiting for you there.

How do you translate an idea for a theme into concrete plans for decorations?

Once upon a time I used bubble planning. I’d write the theme in the middle and create a web of everything I could think of that related to that theme. Now a lot of that work is done using Pinterest, but it’s the same basic principle. You begin with a broad idea — the theme — and break that down into the smaller, more specific aspects of that theme. Then you can start building from there, using everything you find as inspiration to take an event and make it your own. The theme for Tabriz is New York, so everything we’re doing is going to represent some aspect of what you see when you walk the streets of New York, from Times Square to Broadway to Central Park.

Where do you find inspiration for event décor, food and drinks?

The most important thing for any event is making your guests happy, so your guests will be one of your greatest sources of inspiration. What do they like to eat and drink? What kind of decorations will they enjoy? Then go back to all those ideas you have on Pinterest or on your vision board and make them your own to best serve your guests.

For example, we have a long-standing tradition of serving hot dogs on the Thursday night of Tabriz. (The event is a two-part party and features hot dogs, street food and the largest silent auction in Arkansas on Thursday, May 4 and a black-tie gala on Saturday, May 6). These hot dogs are delicious, but they don’t necessarily fit everyone’s dietary preferences, and no one wants to come to a party where they won’t be able to eat anything. This year, we’ll be serving hummus and veggies along with a variety of other foods. I find inspiration in what will make my guests happy, then I see how that will fit within my theme. At Tabriz, we’ll have soft pretzels and other typical New York street food too. It fits the theme and gives everyone something they will enjoy.

What advice do you have for someone decorating their home or other small venue for a party?

Regardless of theme or decoration, you’ll have the most success if you focus on your guests and on what will make them happy. Going to a party should never be work, and you never want a guest to have to ask for anything. Make sure you have plenty of food and the temperature is comfortable. And don’t forget to enjoy the party. Hosting should be fun — and if you’re having fun, your guests will have fun too.

What is the main purpose of Tabriz?

The biennial fundraiser supports Arkansas Arts Center programs and acquisitions. From the art hanging on the wall to the latest Children’s Theatre show, we wouldn’t be able to do the things we do without the funds raised at Tabriz. And it has the added benefit of being a great party — well, two parties.

What do most people not know about the Arkansas Arts Center?

The Arkansas Arts Center has an incredible permanent collection focused on drawings and contemporary craft. Because drawings are particularly sensitive to light exposure, we change the work in our permanent collection galleries every six months, allowing us to show more of our permanent collection than the average museum. As we like to say, we’re always new, always free.

Tabriz: Auction in the City will be held at the Arkansas Arts Center on Thursday, May 4 at 6 p.m.
The Tabriz Silver Anniversary Gala will be held on Saturday, May 6 at 6 p.m. For tickets call 501.396.0383 or visit

Related Articles