Throughout the DC SCORES Inspired Art Gala Wednesday night, the 200 or so guests talked about one theme -- the uniqueness of the event.
Sure, they'd been to dozens of charity events, galas and balls in the D.C. area -- and very good ones, at that. But never anything quite representing what they witnessed first-hand at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. And that's what we were aiming for: a one-of-a-kind event that highlighted just how unique and special our program is.
The night as a whole was a rousing success. From the silent auction, which featured 70 pieces of donated art inspired by DC SCORES students' poetry, to the student and professional performances, the guests had a great time and left feeling good about the financial and time commitments they made.
The venue, also, was close to perfect. The Corcoran atrium, a large, open room with a coliseum-type feel, held the silent auction at one end and food and beverages -- including delicious Mahi Mahi tacos -- on the other. For an hour and a half, guests enjoyed the refreshments and then walked over to the tables and easels that featured a great diversity of artistic works (see the pictures).
As the closing time for the action grew near, it was impossible not to notice as certain guests hovered near the pieces of art they had bid on. There was an attachment they felt to certain pieces, which clearly stemmed from more than just a need to add a piece of art to their living room wall.
At 8:40 p.m., we officially closed the silent auction and began ushering guests into the small, cozy Corcoran auditorium. And that's where eight DC SCORES students -- Saba A. (MacFarland Middle School, pictured above); Henry L. (Tubman Elementary School); Ingrid M. and Ingrid V. (Columbia Heights Education Campus); James P. (Raymond Education Center, pictured below); Daniela S. (H.D. Cooke ES); Jasia S. (Burrville ES); and A’dora W. (Arts and Technology Academy) – put on absolutely captivating performances.
So captivating, in fact, that when they were finished, the audience instinctively stood up to shower them with a standing ovation.
The performances demonstrated just how hard the students have worked on refining their poems over and over again. Many of them recited the same works as they did at the Poetry Slam! in early December, and you could tell they hadn’t stopped working on their performance techniques.
The hand movements, it seemed, were almost choreographed, the words were clearly enunciated, and a rock-solid confidence filled each word that was spoken. The students even inspired a quartet of professional performers, who have plenty of experience taking the stage at huge events and motivating audiences with their words and cadences.
Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, a hip hop artist, educator and youth advocate who has won a Peabody award; Ayanna Gregory, a soul singer, songwriter and agent of change who has performed at major rallies with the likes of Stevie Wonder; David James, lead vocalist for Ndelible, an alternative/soul/hip hop band; and Grammy-nominated hip hop artist Christylez Bacon (pictured below) put together stellar performances that had the students, seated at the bottom of the stage, bobbing their heads to the beats that were flowing and, undoubtedly, picturing themselves one day making the kind of impact the pros in front of them do every time they perform.
But on Wednesday night, the students were the stars, were the motivators. How was that evident?
Well, when the performances and speeches were complete -- in between performances, Executive Director Amy Nakamoto awarded Allen Y. Lew, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, with the DC SCORES Inspiration Award – the students filed back into the atrium and were immediately asked by guests to autograph their Inspired Art programs.
So for a good half hour, the eight students sat at a table eating the array of delicious desserts and signing programs for the adoring adults.
And that, as much as anything, spoke to the impact the first annual Inspired Art Gala had on those who attended.