Hot Butlered Folk

by Kristopher Fraser Photographed by Stephen Smith
Thursday, October 27, 2016

“I’ll have the cosmopolitan,” an adorable Irish woman who has just arrived in the United States requests from the bartender. A cater waitress struts around with her plate of miniature burgers. There are bars on two sides of the room, have to make sure both the left and right are well liquored after all.

In the center of the room were numerous dining tables that would soon seat the attendees to the American Folk Art Museum Gala. The annual event honors some of the major figures involved with the New York City-based museum, and this year they were patrons Lucy and Mike Danziger, the Ford Foundation and its president Darren Walker and Thornton Dial, who was their artist in memoriam. The event was chaired by Heidi Messer and Tad Martin.

MC Nicholas Lowry told us that, “If we were between beef and fish, choose the beef.” The irony was that the two entrée options were either chicken or a vegetarian choice.

As Lucy Danziger got up with her husband Mike to accept their honor, she said “Hold up your glass and make a toast. When you’re done drinking, I’ll probably be finished.”

Darren Walker, the next honoree, told his rags to riches story; his grandmother was a domestic who brought home the art magazines the wealthy people she worked for threw away. He went on to talk about using the arts to uplift communities and the need for economic mobility in the United States.

Lowry then returned to run an auction. The list of things for sale included everything from a trip to a Tuscan Villa in Italy to a brass rooster pin.

“Darren Walker is just bidding on everything,” a guest exclaimed as Walker’s name flashed across the auction monitor three times in a row.

Hungry and anxious guests were finally served Coq Au Vin with wild mushrooms, glazed carrots and polenta. The LaGuardia Community College Jazz Ensemble gave a performance of “If I Were a Bell.”

As the night came to a close, guests who stuck around were served a “butlered” dessert–per the program–including chocolate caramel pretzel tarts, fresh fruit skewers, lemon tartlets, blondie and brownie bites and mocha indulgence chocolate pyramid tortes.

Also there: Ron Shelp, Annette and Richard Dial, Anne Radice, Elizabeth Perry, Sabiha al Khemir, Iris Love, Allan and Penny Katz, Flo and Brian Mahoney, Nana Smith, Valerie RousseauCarl Hammer, Nina and Tim Zagat, Laura Parsons, Linda Johnson, Joyce Cowin, Arie and Coco Kopelman, Stephanie Stebich, Marian Heiskell and Maxwell Anderson.

The American Folk Art Museum also has a great new exhibit going on. Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America is the first major museum exhibition that shows how gravestone sculptures, paintings, and early photography captured likenesses of the deceased. While it sounds macabre, the paintings, particularly of children, many are sweetly moving. The exhibit runs through February 2017.

Visit the American Folk Art Museum’s website at





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