Photo: BFA.com

Event Producer

Austin Fremont

Saul Taylor / May 15, 2019

Who better to organise a big bash than the life of the party herself? While it helps that her godfather was Andy Warhol, Austin Fremont has managed to become the art world’s favourite event producer with her company Fremont Blue by tapping into a knowledge of that universe which only an insider could have. Oh, and by harbouring a chronic case of FOMO.

Why do you think you are so good at producing events?

I’ve always been in production, whether it’s editorial or advertising. Helping produce photo shoots. I worked at Martha Stewart for a while on the magazine side, helping the art directors and the art department produce the shoots. Then I worked at a big PR agency and started an events department because there was a need for media events surrounding the various brands that they worked with. I started the department using my knowledge of tailoring events to specific brands. Working at Martha was the best training for that — taking an idea and translating it so that it worked for the brand. I did that for about five years and then my business partner, John Melick — who owns Blue Medium, an art and design PR firm — approached me about starting an events company together. The arts and design aspect was a world that I grew up in but was only involved in peripherally through my family. My godfather was Andy Warhol, so I was very comfortable in this space of eccentric artists and I understand how to work with them. The combination of my marketing/PR background and growing up in this very creative community really lends itself to Fremont Blue Events being able to handle quite a diverse roster of clients; making sure whatever we’re doing reflects the mission and overall intention of the company or organisation we’re working with.

What makes your approach so unique?

We really understand the values of what our client wants. There is a level of thoughtfulness in our events, from the venue that we choose to the napkins on the table. Every piece of planning is done with intention, to try and reflect the overall goal of the event or values of our client. We take it really personally and do our due diligence to get to know who we’re working with and why we’re doing the event. I often shoot myself in the foot when I say there are too many galas in the world, so we try not to make just another benefit. Benefits are the best example because you have guests paying thousands of dollars for a dinner where they probably have yet another gala or benefit to attend. We try to make it an experience that they actually want to go out to. A good example of that recently is with an artist run organisation called Baxter Street. We did their first and second benefit over the past two years. It is a real collaboration with the Baxter Street community where we want to make sure we don’t become another gala on the Spring circuit. We wanted to do something that people enjoyed and wanted to come to so we could raise the critical funds that they needed, but also it wouldn’t be with an “I can’t wait to get home” vibe. We want people to stay, even though it’s a Wednesday.

What is it like working with such creative clients?

Like with anyone, you learn how people need information delivered. All of our clients are challenging in their own ways, just like every person in this world is challenging. Understanding how you need to present the urgency of a deadline to an artist is a challenge. I’m still waiting on a piece for an auction that happened three weeks ago. I don’t think I’m ever going to get it! So trying to navigate that is difficult. You need to stay on top of artists, generally speaking. I have to say, that goes for a lot of the clients we work with. It’s our job to keep them on track so that we set them up for the best possible event. No matter how much you plan, there’s always going to be something that pops up. So, checking all the things that you can in advance and anticipating where the holes or problems could pop up is essential.

You work in such a visual universe, how has social media impacted your work?

I love it because it extends the reach of your event and the participants in the room. I don’t call myself any kind of social marketing expert, but creating a buzz on Instagram leading up to an event is great and giving people something to take pictures of while they are there — of themselves, friends, some cool interactive Instagram-intended moment — helps create the play on people’s fear of missing out. If you see all of your friends at a party, even if you are really glad you’re in your pyjamas watching your TV, there is a certain level of, “Dang, I should’ve got a ticket to that, I’m definitely going next year.”. That happened at Baxter Street quite naturally. Sometimes there’s something you’ll build that you hope people will feel inclined to take pictures of and start this FOMO. We work with the LGBT centre a lot and they’ve brought us into their core garden party event. Obviously we have a limited budget because it’s a non-profit so we’re going for high impact with social media. I’m really excited to see how this turns out.

What’s the best event that you’ve been to recently? Or do you not go to events?

Oh no, I do. It’s all research! I’ve got to see what everyone else is doing. My sister’s gala is always really great. I’m definitely biased in that I know a lot of people in the room, so its feels like a family reunion. She’s the executive director of the Art Production Fund. They always do a really great job of bringing artists and collectors together and people who support public art in a fun and dynamic way. They always have an artist design their centrepieces and it’s a lovely event. I will say the best photo booth I’ve seen recently… Because I don’t think photo booths will ever die — it somehow always comes back to, “Let’s have a photo booth!”. It’s like torture! But the New York Academy of Arts recently had their Tribeca Ball and they had a photo booth with a mechanism that moved umbrellas — playing on surrealism. It was very cool and was more of a set with mechanics. I had to miss out on a lot of events this Spring because we were working a lot. I always love the Brooklyn Artist Ball. They were honouring Frida Kahlo so there was some great inspiration. I wish I had attended, I definitely had FOMO.

How do you sustain the success?

The whole business has been word of mouth and repeat business so we’ve fallen in with cool clients. If you look at our roster, we have such a wide range of clients that have kept us busy and open to various opportunities that come our way. Even for some clients that we bid on and didn’t get this season, I hope that they come back around because we really believe in the work that we do. Right now we’re working with probably 90 per cent non-profit. Finding partners where you believe in the work that they do is really important because you’re certainly not making the money. You’re giving back or contributing in a certain way.

What makes a great event?

There are three things — good food, good music and good people. I don’t think it’s one element. What makes an event from my perspective is that everything goes according to plan, but better. The thing that you thought was going to be pretty is actually beautiful. If put in that thoughtfulness and intention, that’s what you’ll put across in the guest experience. When you know some person or organisation has really thought through everything to make the event the best that it can be, that comes across in the room. Good vibes only, doesn’t matter how you got there, once those doors open, fake it. I’m kidding. But start smiling, because people can feel that energy. We’re big on that as well. At the end of the day, no matter how much stress it is, it’s still a party.

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