Central Park Women’s Committee Celebrates 35 Years

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Zach Hilty/
Friday, November 3, 2017

They say that “a women’s work is never done by a man.” But it is done at the Mandarin Oriental, where the Central Park Women’s Committee hosted its annual fall luncheon in celebration of its 35th anniversary on Monday, October 30.

Founded in 1983, the Women’s Committee has been instrumental in increasing awareness and raising funds for many park projects, including the reconstruction of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, the renovation of Safari Playground and the recreation of the urns at Bow Bridge. The Women’s Committee raises nearly 15 percent of the Conservancy’s $65 million annual budget.

The event featured a Q&A with Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, in conversation with Lear deBessonet, public theater resident director and founder of public works. 

“The relationship between Conservancy and Central Park couldn’t be better now,” said Eustis on the theater’s 63 years of Shakespeare in the Park, originally billed as the Shakespeare Festival. He mentioned that that was not always the case; in 1958, Robert Moses told the theater that they would need to charge for tickets, and split the proceeds with the park. Broadway legend Merle Debuskey famously told theater founder Joe Papp, “I will work for free Shakespeare. I will not work for cheap Shakespeare.”  The issue was resolved in the courts, and the Public Theater produces its annual shows free of charge to this day.

“Culture belongs to everybody,” continued Eustis. “The theater should belong to everybody. We’re a better city if everyone has access to the best things the culture provides. To me, that’s why we’ve gotten along with the Conservancy and the Parks department for so many years… Our city is better if there are places where people can come together as equal citizens and share together in the commonality of being party of the same civic enterprise.”

At the event, Suzie Aijala, President of the Women’s Committee, was joined by Co-Chairmen Katherine Birch, Rebecca Grafstein, Sarah Kurita, and Liz Peek. Additional notable attendees included Douglas Blonsky, Kathryn Chenault, Norma Dana, Fe Fendi, Amandine Freidheim, Anne Harrison, Tracey Huff, Eleanora Kennedy, Sheila Labrecque, Karen LeFrak, Alexia Leuschen, Karen May, Gillian Miniter, Neda NavabAmelia Ogunlesi, Jenny Price, Barbara Cirkva Schumacher, Christine Schwarzman and Sharon Teles.


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