The Harlem School of the Arts hosted its 50th anniversary gala kickoff on Monday, Oct. 5 in the Grand Ballroom at The Plaza Hotel. This year’s Gala recognized artists, community leaders and activists that represent outstanding achievement in arts advocacy, philanthropy and community leadership, including renowned soprano Jessye Norman, received the Dorothy Maynor Award and actress and activist Cicely Tyson, who founded the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in New Jersey, was bestowed the Betty Allen Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tyson was noticeably absent due to “my duties on Broadway with James Earl Jones in the play ‘The Gin Game,’” she shared via students who accepted the award on her behalf.
Portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, Grammy Award-winner singer/entertainer Alicia Keys and her mother Terria Joseph were each presented the Visionary Artist Award.
“Tonight, this honor here is really all about my mother. I can only say… and she’s standing behind me so I can’t even see her… I can only say thank you, and it’ll never, ever, be enough. I want to thank her for all the Sundays she played Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington on vinyl,” Keys, 34, says about Joseph who reared her as a single mom. “I want to thank her for being my mother, my father, my best friend and my biggest fan — even when nobody knew a thing about me.
“Congratulations on the visionary award we shared tonight mama!!!! Without you, there is no me…Actually and Art-fully.”
The Corporate Award was presented to Michael Sweeney, CEO of Steinway & Sons, his award was accepted by chairman, John Paulson, and the Civic Award was presented to the Honorable Keith L.T. Wright. Legendary jazz musician and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill performed as did talented HSA’s talented students. Proceeds from the Gala assisted HSA in providing scholarships, funding pre-professional training programs, reaching public school children through its arts-in-education partnerships and renovating the School’s Herb Alpert Center in Harlem.