Artists were front and center at the institution’s annual Live Ideas fundraising event, centered on the role of creativity in shaping our collective future

On the evening of Monday, May 20th, New York Live Arts held its annual Live Ideas gala to recognize the foundation’s relentless dedication to boundary-pushing and movement-based performance art, as well as to raise funds for its next year of programming. The theme for this year’s soiree was “Our Future,” and as Artistic Director Bill T. Jones wrote in the event’s literature, “our collective responsibility [is] to work together toward a just and equitable one.” In the vast atrium of the landmark cultural center Chelsea Factory, gala patrons gathered to consider this idea and support New York Live Arts, an institution that uses performance to address the now and ensure the future of creative expression.

Photographed by Maria Baranova.

A dance solo by artist-in-residence Jasmine Hearn set the stage for opening remarks from Executive Director and CEO Kim Cullen, who introduced New York Live Arts board member and anthropologist Aimee Meredith Cox, the evening’s host. Donors, beneficiaries, performers, and friends celebrated this year’s honorees: artist Derrick Adams, president of the New York Public Library Dr. Anthony W. Marx (who rather aptly quoted a 1963 interview with James Baldwin regarding the power of reading), and celebrated actress Cynthia Erivo, whose award was accepted in absentia by Emmy-award winning actress, producer, and screenwriter Lena Waithe. Over a family-style dinner provided by BITE catering, fundraising consultant Henry Santa-Olalla led a boisterous live auction for items like VIP box tickets for Janet Jackson and Usher, as well as a 1983 print of Bill T. Jones body-painted by Keith Haring and photographed by Tseng Kwong Chi, which went for an impressive $25,000. Lights dimmed as guest performer and artist-in-residence Vinson Fraley took to the stage in a black sequined catsuit, undulating through his high-energy routine with dancerly precision. The final performance of the evening was a heartbreaking ensemble piece from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, featuring its nine dancers leaping across a T-shaped catwalk, singing “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert E. Brumley acapella, and “dancing” tag (a more artistically motivated version of “playing tag”) to a live score by vocalist and composer Holland Andrews.

Photographed by Maria Baranova.

A swanky set by DJ April Hunt ushered the attendees from their dinner tables onto a purple-lit dance floor where guests gushed over the showstopping entertainment. As an internationally recognized destination for innovative performance and robust programming in the humanities, New York Live Arts’ Live Ideas gala embodied the organization’s five pillars of artistic exploration: curiosity, inclusivity, fierceness, rigor, and change. Jones puts its goals best: “We will build a legacy together that uplifts artists, provides them with a home, and champions their role in Our Future.”