Andra Day and Clive Davis take awards at the National Arts Awards and Michelle Obama makes a video appearance.
It’s always eye opening when a president offers a budget that eliminates a program. Now imagine the program being the National Endowment for the Arts and you’d get a sense of the mood at the 57th annual National Arts Awards, NEA’s opportunity to give back to its community and cast light on the organizations and individuals that make arts work. But when we spoke to third-year event chairwoman Carolyn Clark-Powers, she said the mood definitely wasn’t crushed or depressed: “We’re inspired. We’ve raised more money with this event than we have in the past ten years. Our contributors know the importance of the arts and will defend that.” It was a strong and resounding message, with multiple appeals to the current administration. And of course, the show must go on.
Held at the enormous and striking Cipriani 42nd St venue, guests enjoyed a dinner as well as impassioned speeches from NEA CEO Bob Lynch: “At this time of natural and social upheaval, we need to support the arts and each other more than ever. Art matters. Artists matter”, as well as from Andra Day, winner of the Ted Arison Young Artist Award, presented by Michelle Obama via video (who Day regarded as, “The eternal First Lady”). Day has been a vocal defendant of civil rights and the Grammy-nominated artist has used her voice, literally, to get the message out.
The national YoungArts Foundation offered the talent of alumni in a dynamics medley including tributes to musicians integral to Clive Davis (recipient of the Carolyn Clark-Powers Lifetime Achievement Award) and his career, including songs by Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, and Whitney Houston, as well as a rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up.”
Other recipients of awards at the 57th annual National Arts Awards included music producer Clive Davis, with the award presented by long-time friend Dionne Warwick
Grammy-nominated musician and activist Andra Day; renowned curator Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Chicago-based heavyweight art patrons Gael Neeson and Stefan Edlis (who nearly broke the Jeff Koons-designed Balloon Rabbit award with their excitement), Pennsylvania arts community leader William Lehr; and non-profit Studio in a School Association, which fosters the creative and intellectual development of youth through quality visual arts programs. Studio in a School celebrates over 40 years in practice this year.
Sarah Sze’s complex and illusionary pieces set the stage. Sze represented the United States at the 2013 Venice Biennale.
The audience was wide-ranging and enthusiastic- guests included Ballet legends Damian Woetzel and Heather Watts (who we had the pleasure to share a table with), Glenn Ligon, Chuck Close, Will Cotton, and more. Lisa Phillips of the New Museum presented an award, Philippe Vergne, director of MOCA, Los Angeles.
Along with award recipient Thelma Golden of Studio Museum in Harlem, Phillips and Vergne lead a bastion of museum directors who have seen materialized visions that have transformed their individual domains and surrounding communities.