Fete at The Met: Diversity and DJs, at the Temple of Dendur

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Don Pollard
Thursday, January 26, 2017

A nor’easter so strong that meteorologists warned against carrying umbrellas because they’d turn inside out was not enough to keep party-goers from The Metropolitan  Museum of Art on January 23, as the museum hosted its inaugural Winter Party celebrating diversity and inclusion.

“Because, it’s The Met!” said one attendee, when asked what brought him out that night.

The event was hosted by The Board of Trustees and the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative Advisory Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It honored philanthropist Nita Ambani, artist Sam Gilliam, New York fashion figure Bethann Hardison, art champion Susana Torruella Leval, and Donna Williams, The Met’s Chief Audience Development Officer.

The goal of the advisory committee is to determine how The Met could better engage and serve the diverse community.

Guests partied inside The Met’s famed Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing. Tom Campbell, the museum’s Director and CEO thanked guests for “making it through the rain and the wind to be here,” before commenting on the event space. The temple was built on the banks of the Nile in 15 BC. “We are about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this great monument, which has presided over so many celebrations,” said Campbell of the exhibit, which has doubled as a party palace.

After a short video describing each attendee’s contributions to fostering diversity in the arts, Williams took the stage as Campbell revealed that the longtime officer would be stepping down this week. “You have to have so many different points of view to make this a great institution,” said Williams about her role. “[We have a] responsibility to share this collection, to make sure that everyone feels welcome.

“I’m grateful to every last one of you for making my dreams come true,” she continued.

The party went well into the night, with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and music by DJ Mode. “I’m so honored to be here,” said Ambani, who flew in from India for the event before continuing on to Stanford to see her daughter.

“It’s always wonderful to be recognized, more-so for others than myself,” said Hardison after stepping into the quieter space of the Egyptian art exhibits just outside the temple. “I like representing the energy of it. If you’re being recognized, people are learning about something that they might not have known.” Hardison was a pioneer African-American model in the 1970s, and since then has championed diversity in the fashion industry.

Susanna Torruella Leval has been working with The Met on diversity initiatives since the early 70s. “It was a great honor, but I also feel strongly that so many people I’ve worked with over the years in this area could have been up there instead of me,” she said humbly . Leval recently had surgery, but she lasted until the event wrapped up at 11 p.m. “I’m overwhelmed because I’ve been home and quiet. But I had a ball tonight! It was a wonderful, beautiful and happy event,” she said.


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