On The Avenue

Hollywood on the Hudson

by Kristopher Fraser Photographed by Ted Nash
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

“No one is wearing what they want to be wearing,” a guest in a floral dress says as she sips her champagne. There were so many traditional tuxedos with white shirts and black ties, that for a second, one wondered whether this was the Oscars. The handsome gentleman who several people mistook for Johnny Depp was probably pleased though.

There she goes, Miss American Federation of the Arts, tonight’s honoree Alice Walton. “We like her, we really like her.” Who is that goddess that just walked in? Well, that is none other than the other honoree of the night, Wangechi Mutu.

The AFA’s annual gala took place on Tuesday, November 1, at the Metropolitan Club and honored philanthropist and businesswoman Walton for her contributions to arts education, and contemporary artist Mutu , a talented artist whose work speaks to women’s issues and the body politic.

At 8, guests were ushered into the dining room and Pauline Willis, the director of American Federation of Arts, gave opening remarks, the usual congratulations and thanked everyone for coming. Willis’ sartorial inspiration for the evening was vintage Black Hollywood , a glamour look she pulled off effortlessly.

As guests were served their salad, which was wrapped in a cucumber, yes, you read that correctly, Mutu was honored with her award. While guests dined on short ribs, Walton was presented with hers, but there was a surprise in store for her.

“There is someone who wanted to thank you, but he’s a bit busy tonight,” Willis said as she cued for a video of President Bill Clinton congratulating Walton on her honor and everything she has done to support arts education in the United States. Who would have thought art could be brought to the backyard of Arkansas, where Walton opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art? The goal of the museum is to expand access to art to tourists, residents of Arkansas and young children to foster art appreciation.As she¬†accepted her award, she fiddled with her speech papers, but remained an epitome of humble grace, and promised to continue her commitment to the arts before she received a standing ovation .

Guests finished off the night with pumpkin cheesecake, and an after party which included more cocktails and dancing. Artists just wanna have fun after all.

Visit American Federation of Arts website at afaweb.org.


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