On April 18, YoungArts hosted its third annual gala celebrating the organization’s devotion to the arts. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in partnership with Max Mara, the evening was in support of YoungArts’s program for aspiring artists across the country, and kicks off the regional program in New York later this month. Guests included chairs Sarah Arison, Diana DiMenna and Sandra Tamer, as well as artist Derrick Adams, curator Klaus Biesenbach, Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak and Cultured’s guest for the evening, Jaé Joseph who accompanied Editor in Chief Sarah Harrelson. Jonathan Kendall takes us through the evening’s highlights.
As the crowd shuffles through the Egyptian galleries of the Met, the gilded faces of pharaohs and priests from long past grin—as if admiring the procession of flowing, chiffon dresses. Tonight is the YoungArts New York Gala and the art world’s cognoscenti have assembled, in glittering mass, at the hallowed 5th Avenue institution.
Like clockwork, when each cluster of laughing guests in the queue reaches the archways into the hangar-sized Sackler Wing, gasps escape their mouths. There is a flurry of flashes from iPhones. Just above a tranquil pond guarded by sphinxes, a fleet of elegant tables with fairy-like blue hydrangea centerpieces has been arranged before the Temple of Dendur, which is aglow, illuminated with neon blue lights.
Mickalene Thomas enters the room—grinning ear to ear—and as she takes to her seat, the artist waves to Derrick Adams, who is sitting beside me with glints in his eyes. “This is one of my favorite galas,” he leans over and tells me as a pair of young danseurs—My’Kal Stromile and Mason Manning—leap to the stage set at the heart of the affair. While they whirl and pulsate, reacting to each others sways, you kind of get the impression the dance is about the strange games we play—with others, with ourselves.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, who is seated close to the spotlighted platform, looks up to the ballerinos with wide eyes. “There was a lot of crying, they really let their guards down,” Adams says, about how past students first reacted upon entering their programs at the National YoungArts Foundation. “Some of the kids had never been around other artists. … It’s really a blessing, in both ways, that we found them and they found us.”
As dance performance continues, everyone at our tables seems breathless. “They come in one way and leave a totally different way,” Adams whispers, somewhat abstractedly, gazing toward the limelighted platform.
After a rotation of glimmering plates are set and withdrawn from our table—ricotta ravioli with lemon zest, sirloin stone ground polenta with morels—it’s time for dessert. Just as I taste the delicious mingling of chocolate and strawberries, another pair of YoungArts alumni—Micaela Diamond and Ben Ross—takes to the stage. In an instant, Diamond’s voice sweeps over the temple room, and fills it with something light yet dense. Their duet, it’s a visceral. You experience it with your gut as much as you do with your ears.
After the song, Sarah Arison, the chair of the foundation, talks with me about her role as the party winds down. “My heart is filled every single day,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything better with my life. … I cried through half of the performances tonight.”
… Below the expansive sloped windows of the room—there are twinkling city lights in the distance—Arison begins to hug an onslaught of departing guests. In doing so, she speaks with me, once again. “Honestly, I would do anything for these kids,” Arison tells me, leaning in, with a gleam in her eyes as dazzling as the flashes from her sequin dress. “And then some.”