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Review of Artfully AWARE Summer Gala

July 3, 2010

June 30, 2010
Filed under Causes & Charities, Review

Artfully Aware (AfA) uses the arts as a social improvement tool to promote the emotional recovery of people who have experienced trauma. The organization believes that the arts can promote positive change in communities throughout the world. It creates art, drama, dance, and media workshops to promote exchanging ideas and advocates community improvement strategies which yield intellectual and therapeutic benefits.

Melissa Kate, AfA’s United States Director, beautifully articulated the organization’s purpose when, in mid event, she gave a speech which compared this purpose to her grandfather’s loss of his sense of smell. She explained that just as her grandfather had a diminished life because he could  not taste food or discern her grandmother’s perfume, traumatized people who become disconnected from the arts suffer loss too.  She said that she works to reconnect people who loose their sense of the arts to their lost sense. She fosters people’s potential by advocating what she calls “sustainable empowerment” through the arts.

This exceedingly serious attention to traumatic loss of artistic appreciation to my mind addresses literary critic George Steiner’s book, Language and Silence: Essays on Language, Literature, and the Inhuman (which concerns the destruction of language in light of Nazi atrocity and concludes that twentieth century atrocity is unspeakable).  I think that Melissa Kate—and AfA Executive Director, Hilary Wallis—use women’s language to update Steiner in a positive way for the twenty first century.

The evening was an interconnected multifaceted and multi-cultural masterpiece.  There was a wine tasting, superbly talented multiethnic dance groups (provided by the “African Trans-World Performance Arts Ensemble” and the experimental pre-Hispanic “Zompanti”), and a silent auction of beautiful paintings and jewelry made by children in Uganda. (I loved the fact that AfA raises money—and empowers young artists–by turning the children’s art into postcards.)

I was most impressed  by the exceedingly healthy food (okay sans the brownies!). I just loved the beautiful display of fresh fruit, brown rice, salad, and lentils. As I had my third portion of spicy salsa to die for, I was grateful that, unlike Melissa Kate’s grandfather, I could taste it.

So my adventure for the evening transpired when me and my plate filled with great food sans cholesterol parked ourselves in a chair located right next to dancers enacting an animal hunt. I could have reached out and touched the crouching dancer with a deer head strapped to his head who was enacting escaping the dancer wielding a knife and screaming in time to the drumming. I very consciously trusted the performers’ expertise because one false step could have rendered salsa imbibing me into dead meat.

I survived; the dance did not become really real over my dead body. But something else did actualize the spirit of the generosity and community spirit AfA is trying to achieve. The event was held on the spacious and well appointed second floor of the Moore Brothers Wine Company. Soon after Ms. Kate spoke, one of the Moore brothers explained that he routinely donates the space to small philanthropic organizations because he at once can benefit good causes, meet “the intelligent New Yorkers” who attend the events, and hope that they will become customers. Great idea! The AfA and the Moore Brothers Wine Company epitomize a generous spirit that exemplifies how giving is both good for people and good for business.

When I left, Ms. Kate handed me an envelope tied with a beautiful blue ribbon—another sign that the organizers gave loving attention to every detail. I was so happy to open it and see that I now owned some of those postcards of the Ugandan children’s painting—a wonderful souvenir of a blue ribbon event!

— Marleen

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