Harlem Stage, the legendary uptown performing arts venue hosted its annual gala celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, a period known for a flourishing of art and culture led by Black artists. Guests were dressed in attire inspired by the roaring ‘20s, to mark the era. Guests enjoyed musical performances in the historic and stunning Gatehouse, a New York City landmark built in 1890 which once served as a pivotal facility in the Croton Aqueduct system and was revitalized to serve as a state-of-the-art performance space. The theme of this year’s event was “Disrupters: Then, Now, and in the Future” in honor of those who shake up the status quo in every field by pushing the boundaries of innovation. The gala is a tribute to artists, activists, and creators, and celebrates Harlem Stage’s more than 35 years as an institution known for commissioning and presenting new, innovative work that reflects and responds to the complex conditions that shape the lives of audiences, artists, and communities of color.
Over $400,000 was raised and proceeds from the gala will help support Harlem Stage’s critical mission to commission and present works by visionary artists of color and supports the thousands of New York City schoolchildren Harlem Stage serves each year through the Frances Davis/Harlem Stage Arts Education Program.
The 2019 gala honored several individuals and organizations who embody Harlem Stage’s mission. The Philanthropy Award was presented to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), which has helped Harlem Stage fulfill its artistic mission in multiple ways, including exposing thousands of students each year to the arts, support of Harlem Stage’s first-ever international live stream event, and presenting an unprecedented five-week run of Antigone in Ferguson, a critically acclaimed theater work. The Transformative Artist Award was given to Stew of the acclaimed band Stew and The Negro Problem. Stew is a lauded musician who traversed the musical sphere into theatre to become a TONY Award-winning playwright with his play “Passing Strange” and Notes of A Native Song, commissioned and presented in 2015 as part of Harlem Stage’s WaterWorks program. The Emerging Artist Award was presented to Savannah Harris, a rising star in the jazz world. Known for her unique and technical style of drumming, she has graced the Kennedy Center stage and works with Jazz at Lincoln Center. Patricia Cruz, Executive Director, Harlem Stage said “Our gala enables Harlem Stage and our artists to join together with our audiences, community and supporters in the contemporary struggle to realize a just, equitable and truly democratic society”
Party guests included host Joy-Ann Reid (MSNBC Political Analyst and host of “AM Joy”), Honoree and TONY Award winning playwright and musician, Stew of the acclaimed band Stew and The Negro Problem, Emerging Artist HonoreeSavannah Harris, Philanthropy Honoree Stavros Niarchos Foundation representative Stelios Vasalakis, British actress and TONY nominee Noma Dumezweni (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), singer and actress Nona Hendryx, WQXR 105.9 FM radio host Terrance McKnight, TONY Award-winning actress LaChanze (The Color Purple, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical), award winning poet, playwright, novelist, actor, director, singer/songwriter Carl Hancock Rux, actress and director Estelle Parsons, members of the iconic rock band Living Colour Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun, Jazz vocalist Brianna Thomas, Obie Award-winning actress Tamara Tunie (Dietland, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Harlem Stage Executive Director Patricia Cruz and Gala Co-Chairs Jenette Kahn and Ron Simons.
Harlem Stage is the performing arts center that bridges Harlem’s cultural legacy to contemporary artists of color and dares to provide the artistic freedom that gives birth to new ideas. For over 35 years Harlem Stage has been one of the nation’s leading arts organizations, achieving this distinction through its work with artists of color and by facilitating a productive engagement with the communities it serves through the performing arts. With a long-standing tradition of supporting artists and organizations around the corner and across the globe, Harlem Stage boasts such legendary artists as Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Sekou Sundiata, Abbey Lincoln, Sonia Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri, Maya Angelou and Tito Puente, as well as contemporary artists like Bill T. Jones, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Tamar-kali, Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Stew, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jason Moran, José James, Nona Hendryx and more. Its education program each year provides thousands of New York City children with introduction and access to the rich diversity, excitement and inspiration of the performing arts. In 2006, Harlem Stage opened the landmarked, award-winning Harlem Stage Gatehouse. This once-abandoned space, originally a pivotal source for distributing fresh water to New York City, is now a vital source of creativity, ideas, and culture. Harlem Stage is a winner of the William Dawson Award for Programming Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming (Association of Performing Arts Presenters).