Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bizz Buzz

When Pomp asked me to cover the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards at Cipriani, I was gushing with nerdy excitement. I'm an avid enthusiast for every form of art New York City has to offer, from graffiti covered gates to the latest MOMA exhibition. Growing up in the Lower East Side, I learned about art from St. Marks performance artists and local murals--not in public school where art class funding gets cut first, if it ever existed in the first place.

Americans for the Arts, one of the premier nonprofit organizations struggling to increase access to art education is a heavy-hitter in the world of political advocacy and fundraising - a losing battle in today’s crisis-frenzied Congress.

As someone forever in love with how the city changes and how we construct our identities, Brooklyn married authors Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt were enough to make me throw my graduate work to the side and head to the red ropes and bright lights of Cipriani. Toss in Robert Redford, Salman Rushdie, Kitty Hart, Ed Ruscha Kelly Richardson, and special guests Kerry Washington and Nancy Pelosi, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and Dennis Hopper, and I have a clearer picture of how fundraising gets done, particularly considering entry to the event requires a contribution ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.

('90s Speed Demon Dennis Hopper makes his appearance)

(Pomp's Ippolita di Paola interviewing Salman Rushdie)

Salman Rushdie, one of the most prominent and politically significant novelists of our time, faced a fatwa (death sentence) from Iran’s orthodox leaders in 1989 for his fourth novel Satanic Verses. This forced him into government protection in Britain. This week he showed up with no guards and stopped to speak with me. I asked him about his opinion of the organization and his role in it. Rushdie smiled in his dark green velvet blazer and said, “I think it’s great. The arts are having a hard time these days and it’s very important to have advocacy organizations like this. I'm happy to be here and be a part of it.” After expressing my admiration for the inspirational courage he expresses in his writing, photographer Amanda and I got back to the rough side of the event—the nasty paparazzi, flocking tourists and whining young elites being dragged to the event by their families.

(The beautiful Kerry Washington arrives!)

Shortly after, the beautiful Kerry Washington, with her mom at her side, stepped out of a black SUV in a stunning dress, greeting the press with grace. “Hello gentleman, and lady,” nodding to Pomp’s photographer. Her assistant, who Washington introduced as “the new Dana”—highlighting the obviously low retention rate of celebrity assistants, rushed them inside.

(The man of the night: Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree Robert Redford arrives at last)

Robert Redford showed up last with his beautiful wife. He was not enthused by the onslaught of journalists, but his presence made the tourists happy. The no-name guests were all epic examples of New York high society with gorgeous designer dresses and personal drivers, but that didn’t stop the other side of NY from making its debut as well. A homeless cart-pusher let high society know what he thought about them as he passed by: “A lot of white people don’t recognize evil as evil.” Maybe if there was more public access to the arts that statement could have led to a critical discussion about the banality of evil with Rushdie.

-Ippolita di Paola
Photos: Amanda Segur
Entertainment Editor: Lori Bizzoco


Anonymous said...

This is what Pomp is all about. There should be discourse between homeless people and Rushdie, who brought up the middleman and why should we do what they say? Nice pictures.

Kristina said...

Love this coverage! Well done, Pomp!

Anonymous said...

Yes! I love the homeless man quote great job

Anonymous said...

Way to go Pomp gritty/glamour