Nancy Noel: Local Artist Revives Old World Mystery And Paper Faces.
Photos By JJ Kaplan
Our hostess and local artist, Nancy Noel, welcomes us once again into The Sanctuary for a night of mysticism, pageantry and fundraising. Noel hosted the inaugural “Masquerade on Main” in 2012 as a fundraiser for the N.A. Noel Preschool located in Kenya. With over 175 in attendance, the bal masqué or masquerade ball was held at the Colours Restaurant inside The Sanctuary, located on the historical brick street in downtown Zionsville.
Noel and her staff entertained their guests with live minstrels, stilt walkers dressed as mummies, fortune tellers, delectable treats, and of course, the opportunity to view the gallery of Noel’s works by candlelight. Her collection features subjects, both natural and mystical, and creates the ideal ambience for this event. The guests were adorned in an array of costumes and colors, some were custom designed and handmade. The cast of characters that filled the halls and rooms of The Sanctuary represented many time periods, countries, legends and myths.
Hosting this event, Noel pays homage to a centuries-old exhibition of mystery, fantasy and celebration. The concept of the masquerade ball was introduced in the 15th century as allegorical tributes to Royal Entries, court weddings and other notable events of that era. Progressing into the later centuries, the balls were transformed into public festivals associated primarily with the traditions of the Venetian Carnival. Elaborate costumes and masks were prevalent at these balls until the end of the 18th century and the fall of the Venetian Republic.
Over the ages, many literary and cultural references have been made to masquerade balls. Authors such as Shakespeare, Gaston Leroux and Edgar Allan Poe have set poignant and memorable scenes in a sea of jovial and mysterious paper faces.
In present day North America, black tie galas and costume parties are the descendants of the traditional balls and masquerades. Additionally, there has been a shift in the culture’s celebratory traditions with an emphasis on current pop culture rather than on a festival’s origin, specifically regarding Halloween. “All Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve” was originally inspired by harvest feasts and festivals celebrating the dead. While not a federal holiday, Halloween is observed in the US and celebrated in today’s society with haunted houses, bonfires, trick-or-treating and zombie walks.
Noel expressed her sentiments on the cultural changes and how Americans of this era celebrate Halloween in a published article a few years ago. “I focused my dissertation on my personal feelings and the fact that people and organizations were backing area haunted houses that were grotesque and violent in theme. They continue to promote 3D violence,” Noel said. “These venues are designed to scare people and children. While I understand that some adults and children like to be scared, the concept of Halloween has been lost in translation. It is supposed to be about the giving of treats, dressing up and embracing life after life and not about the ‘Chain Saw Massacre.’”
Noel had an idea to take the experience that guests of The Sanctuary have daily upon stepping into the foyer and expounded on that energy by hosting the first “Masquerade on Main” ball last October. “On a everyday basis, there is a lot of great spirit energy at The Sanctuary,” Noel explained. “Guests and staff tell us this every day. This is a wonderful place for people to gather together in costumes, many of which are forms of art, and allow them to ‘get into character’ and do this legitimately for one night of the year.”
Guests of this year’s “Masquerade on Main” can expect to experience the same high level of detail with festive decorations, access to newly renovated rooms and the lower level featuring additional haunting and inspiring works by Nancy Noel.
Main Street will be closed off to vehicular traffic in front of The Sanctuary, and attendees can warm themselves near a bonfire and exchange conversation with old friends and new friends. Though, in costume, it may be hard to discern with whom one is conversing.
A seasonal menu of appetizing items from Noel’s Colours Restaurant will be served to the evening’s guests as part of the admission fee, and a cash bar will be available throughout the evening.
Local celebrity judges will present awards for the “Best Costume” for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. This year’s judges include Sherman Burdette, on-air personality and feature reporter for Fox59 morning news, and Nancy Noel. The selected winners will receive limited edition prints ranging in values from $250 to $500.
Musical entertainment will be provided by DJ Dr. Dance, a local favorite who has entertained countless audiences in Indianapolis and central Indiana since 1982.
Tarot card readings will be provided by empath and medium Karen Hagemeier. Hagemeier’s services include reiki, readings and paranormal investigations. Angel readings will be provided by Donna Cook who is an ordained minister, reiki master/healer and spiritual counselor.
Guests of last year’s ball are enthusiastically talking up this event and planning their attire for this year’s costume contest. Ruth Miles, a Zionsville resident, attended last year disguised as the sultry “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.”
“The mood was set as soon as you walked in the door, and with Nancy’s art, it had this ethereal yet Halloween quality,” Miles said. “It was a magical evening and the best costume party I’ve ever been to, hands down. I’d invite people who haven’t been to go out and exercise their inner goblin or princess and bring their friends. They won’t be disappointed.”
While the evening is designed to entertain and evoke the senses (all six of them) of the attending guests, the primary purpose of the night is to raise funds and awareness for the Indiana United Methodist Children’s Home located in Lebanon, Indiana. The home was organized in 1915 and moved to its present location in Lebanon in 1922. The home first served as a home for orphans and is currently operating as a treatment facility dedicated to helping emotionally troubled youth struggling with a variety of challenges including abuse and drug use. Proceeds raised this evening will benefit the home and assist with their needs in the upcoming holiday season.
“Masquerade on Main” will be held Saturday, October 26 from 7-11 pm. Tickets are available for purchase at The Sanctuary and online, in advance for $25/person and $30 at the door. The admission includes food, favors and entertainment. This event is for adults 21 and over, and costumes are highly encouraged.
For more information, visit The Sanctuary’s website at www.nanoel.com or call at 317-733-1117. The Sanctuary is located at 75 N. Main St. in downtown Zionsville.