Among this year’s honorees at the Harlem School of the Arts’ Fall 2013 Benefit last week were husband and wife teams Gina Torres & Laurence Fishburne and Janice Savin Williams & Christopher J. Williams, who were the recipients of the Visionary Artists Award and the Leadership Award, respectively.
The Philanthropy Award went to the Ford Foundation.
Says Yvette L. Campbell, HSA President & CEO, of the event: “I’m thrilled to celebrate these exceptional honorees - who in their own unique ways - are making it possible for us as HSA to continue bringing the arts to children every single day. For nearly 50 years The Harlem School of the Arts has made it their stellar mission to enrich the lives of children through the arts, and every honoree, performer, student and attendee is helping make that mission a reality.”
Founded in 1964 by soprano Dorothy Maynor, HSA has received generous support this year from iconic musician Herb Alpert. In recognition of gifts totaling $6,000,000, the facility was recently renamed, ‘The Herb Alpert Center.’
This is just the kind of support that arts programs greatly depend on for survival, especially given the current economy and the fact that arts education has largely been cut from many public schools.
“Money and funding are certainly the biggest obstacles facing arts programs today. I was a product of the public school system here in NY, as was my wife, when funding for the arts was available,” actor Laurence Fishburne told The Network Journal. “I believe strongly that that’s part of the reason why we were able to be successful. It’s because we did have the support that young people need when it comes to art and culture. In order to produce great minds, young people need support with math and science, yes, but those minds should also be cultivated in other disciplines such as arts, culture and politics,” he adds.
Assembly Member Keith Wright of Harlem’s District 70, a proponent of arts education who has lent his support to the Harlem institution, agrees and describes HSA as a foundation, an anchor and a beacon. “The biggest challenge is always money. And it’s becoming harder now that arts education has been taken out of the public school system. A lot of people don’t think it’s a necessary function for kids to be exposed to the arts when it totally is a necessary function. I can remember my own example – when I played violin with the Manhattan School of Music. I was lousy, but I still remember it to this very day. I remember what a great effect it had on my maturation process,” says Wright. He continues, “I have had the privilege of representing the HSA during both the good times and the perilous times when we were going through the possibility of a shutdown no less than two years ago. It was our job to find the money so that it could remain open. And I think we’ve gotten past that and so now, we can keep arts not only surviving, but thriving in the Harlem community.”
Wright says HSA’s new board is comprised of a fabulous team of folks who are zealous at raising money. Leading the charge is HSA Vice Chair & Secretary Janice Savin Williams, whom he says is hard to say no to. "That's what you want in a board member," he says.
“It behooves organizations such as HSA to provide arts programs for kids. I am a big believer in having a well-rounded student,” says Savin Williams who was part of the new board that the Bloomberg administration brought in along with Charles Hamilton, Mary Schmidt Campbell and a few others. “It was boots-on-the-ground trying to go around and make sure that the previous donors understood that we were taking things to the next level,” she says regarding the board’s approach to obtaining funding.
The evening also included music and dance performances.
Click here to view photos from the event.