Brooklyn Boro

New York Foundation for the Arts Hall of Fame benefit celebrates renowned artists

April 14, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Michael L. Royce, Anna Deavere Smith, James Casebere, Faith Ringgold, Judith K. Brodsky and Zhou Long. Photo: Carl Timpone/BFA.com

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Benefit on Tuesday at 583 Park Ave. celebrated four remarkable artists by inducting them into the NYFA Hall of Fame: James Casebere (Fellow in Sculpture ’89, Photography ’85, ’94), Anna Deavere Smith (Fiscally Sponsored Artist ’16), Faith Ringgold (Fellow in Painting ’88) and Zhou Long (Fellow in Music Composition ’00).

More than 300 guests gathered to honor the new NYFA Hall of Fame inductees and NYFA’s persistent work to support artists at critical stages of their creative careers. The evening’s atmosphere was celebratory and cheerful, interspersed with speeches by NYFA affiliated artists who shared their own NYFA stories.

As Carmelita Tropicana, a three-time NYFA fellow, enthusiastically remarked, “I can’t say how grateful I am to NYFA. It was the first organization that gave me my first grant and NYFA supported me for the three decades that I’ve been performing.”

Highlighting the importance of the artists’ role in society, NYFA Board Chair Judith K. Brodsky said, “We celebrate the work that artists, composers, poets, novelists and filmmakers create. But where does the work come from? It’s individuals who create that work and we need to support and make life easier for these individuals.”

Playwright, actress, professor and activist Smith also called upon the support of individual artists in her honoree speech, saying, “There are a lot of independent artists walking around, and the foundations don’t want to take a chance on them, and so we need ways to make this real; we need a greater amount of nimble activity in the arts.”

Honoree and composer Long emphasized how NYFA’s support came at an important time in his career. “Without your support, I wouldn’t have written the piece. New York is the culture capital of the world. So with your support NYFA, you support the world of artists.”

“I owe a great debt to NYFA for everything they’ve done for me. They made a big difference in my life,” said photographer and honoree Casebere.

“If I had known how difficult it would be for me, as an African-American woman to be an artist, would I have done it anyway?” asked honoree, artist and philanthropist Ringgold. She continued, “I don’t know. I might not have, so I just close my eyes and think how fortunate I was that there were a lot of people who’ve got my back and NYFA, you’re one of them.”

NYFA’s Executive Director Michael L. Royce encapsulated the evening perfectly when he announced: “I want to close the evening by asking all the artists in the room to please stand up so that we can applaud you properly.”

His request was met with enthusiastic applause and cheers.