A planner reveals her design process
Susan Holland, a New York event designer who has planned several high-profile Bar Mitzvah events in New York, considers one of the more important challenges the ability to honor the meaning behind the Mitzvah celebration.
For Holland, the aesthetic goals behind a Bar and Bat Mitzvah design are no different than the other events she produces, such as the African Summit she recently planned at the White House. The biggest difference comes in the creative process. “You’re permitted to be inside the head of yourself as a child and release all your adult parameters,” she says. “You can create an atmosphere where you have total freedom.”
Yet she cautions that “total” might not be accurate as some of the honorees are very involved in the planning process, seeing the rite of passage an opportunity to flex their artistic independence. Holland sees kids who are proactive in the planning of the Mitzvah as colleagues in the design process. “We have the same aesthetic drive and values and interests. The goal is to meet the needs of the event,” Holland says.
With this new generation, this centuries-old celebration is not unlike other events that now incorporate social media. They are using it for invitations (a Facebook invite is completely acceptable), documenting the event, and within activities at the event.
Mitzvah events are also a time when different generations come together in celebration. For Holland, this is really where the creative process derives its power to create environments that not only pop aesthetically, but allow for people of all ages to revel in the moment.
And finally, the inclusion of elements that stand as metaphors for the actual rite add a certain weight to the celebration. An example of this, Holland recalls, was a 20-foot ice curtain, which was inspired by the environmentalist artist Andy Goldsworthy. It divided the room and slowly melted throughout the evening, creating the feeling that the design was living and changing, not unlike the event honoree.
In the end, one could say that the Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a coming-of-age story in which not only 13-year-olds experience growth; designers and planners do the same.