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GETTING CHICAGO-BASED designer Tom Kehoe to offer up his private home as an event venue took some doing, according to Kathy Miller. “I had to beg a lot,” says the president of Inverness, Ill.-based Total Event Resources. But securing Kehoe's high-concept loft as the site of her company's high-concept “Art and Soul of Fort Worth” destination marketing event was well worth the work, she insists.

Designed to introduce Chicago-area meeting and conference planners to the Fort Worth CVB's new Midwest regional office, while positioning the Texas city as a cultural hub, the spring event took full advantage of Kehoe's sophisticated surroundings.

Washed in red light and highlighted by a nine-foot-long logo projection, the designer's garage — “which doesn't look anything like a garage,” says Miller, pointing out its painted floor, glass-brick wall and neon trim — doubled as an open-air kitchen and registration area. Total Event transformed Kehoe's living room into an art gallery featuring evocative photos of Fort Worth's ample attractions, including its museums, raceway and convention center. Kehoe even hooked Miller up with one of his design firm's in-house artists, who provided an original painting of the Fort Worth skyline commissioned specifically for the 50-guest event.

Miller says the event drove home her client's message that “Fort Worth is more than a cowboy town.”

Fort Worth CVB vice president of sales Jim LaBadie, new head of the bureau's Rockford, Mich., office, confirms it did just that, and much more. “For a city to run around and brag about how big their center is, or how many hotel rooms they have — that doesn't get people interested in the city,” he says. What sells is excitement — an abundance of activities to sample “after the final gavel.”

“Fort Worth has a cultural campus that is almost unmatched in the country,” he adds, citing a recent story in Vanity Fair magazine predicting that the city's soon-to-open modern art museum — the newest addition to a list of institutions that includes the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum — will transform the city into one of the world's great art destinations. Total Event's $49,000 house party created exactly the right buzz around the city's “art and soul,” he says, citing two contracts that came directly out of the event, and anticipating many more to come.

Total Event Resources 1613 Colonial Parkway, Inverness, IL 60067; 847/963-1448;

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