The Rural We: Amy Rudnick
You can thank Amy Rudnick in large part for the spectacular (and seamlessly run) galas you’ve attended. She’s the party planner extraordinaire behind events at Jacob’s Pillow, the Mahaiwe, Shakespeare & Company, and many other nonprofit organizations in the Berkshires. She got her start in the event-producing business as director of special events at the Museum of Natural History. When she and her husband, a filmmaker, moved to the Berkshires, it was a natural progression for her to use her skill set to plan the galas we all love to go to. When we caught up with Rudnick, she had just completed her last event of the season — for the Flying Cloud Institute, of which she is the board chair.
I studied anthropology and museum studies in college. I desperately wanted to work in a museum, so I took a secretarial position at the Museum of Natural History — that proverbial “foot in the door.” I was hoping to move into the anthropology department, but when that didn’t happen after a couple of years, I took a job in its event planning and conference services department, which I ended up running.
We moved here from the city almost 20 years ago, when I was pregnant. We used to come up here to visit friends on the weekends. We decided to take the plunge almost spontaneously, but happily. We’re still in the same house in Sheffield we first bought.
My first client up here was Jacob’s Pillow. I had a friend on the gala committee who knew what I’d done in New York. Nonprofits are generally small staffed, and putting on a gala takes months and many staff members, which takes them away from fundraising duties. It was the first time the Pillow decided to hire a planner, and I was recommended.
I’d say I’m a producer, the person who brings all of the different facets of an event together. I coordinate all of the vendors — catering, music, rentals, all of the outside people who put an event together. I work closely with the client to strategize about the entire concept of the event, and then the fundraising aspect. I set it up and I’ll be at an event the whole time, managing different elements, putting it to bed… and seeing how much money we made!
I am strictly a fundraising event planner. If I’m going to dedicate myself to parties, I want it to be for a good cause, and there are so many great ones here. I get tremendous joy out of helping them. One of my favorite events this year was the Mahaiwe’s gala, held in a tent at the old Great Barrington train station. Wynton Marsalis was the performer, and to honor his New Orleans heritage, we led the guests to the theater with New Orleans-style music. It was really, really fun and different.
There are so many events here, it’s super important to make each one special, and to help people remember which event they’re at! I try to bring in the personality of the organizations with banners and photographs.
To do this work, you have to be detail oriented and super organized, which are two of my greatest strengths. People don’t realize that the event itself can be incredibly stressful. I’m always watching the clock to make sure things are going off in time.
I’m done now until the spring. I usually use this time of year to go into the city. I like to check out the new restaurants, and since I’m a total museum hound, catch up on my favorite New York museums.