NYFA Inducts Marylyn Dintenfass, Carmelita Tropicana, Anne del Castillo, and Brookfield Properties into its Hall of Fame at Annual Benefit

NYFA Inducts Marylyn Dintenfass, Carmelita Tropicana, Anne del Castillo, and Brookfield Properties into its Hall of Fame at Annual Benefit
Image: NYFA Board Chair Marc J. Jason, Marylyn Dintenfass, Commissioner Anne del Castillo, Callie Haines, Carmelita Tropicana, and NYFA CEO Michael Royce, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

NYFA’s big spring gala celebrated the arts and their impact on New York City as a global creative capital.

On Thursday, April 20 NYFA’s annual Hall of Fame Benefit brought nearly 300 artists, art patrons, arts professionals, and arts lovers together in celebration of the arts, recognizing the creative contributions of visual artist Marylyn Dintenfass, writer and performance artist Carmelita Tropicana, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) Anne del Castillo, and Brookfield Properties to the larger cultural fabric of New York City and beyond.

The event, which took place at Capitale in Manhattan and raised crucial operating funds in support of NYFA’s mission, recognizes visual, literary, performing, media, and interdisciplinary artists who have received NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowships and have had a profound impact on the arts through their creative work, and individuals and organizations who have championed the value of the arts in the world around us. 

Guests enjoying the art auction during cocktail hour at NYFA's 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit
Image: Guests enjoying the art auction during cocktail hour at NYFA’s 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit, Image Credit: Clint Spaulding

The 2023 Benefit kicked off with a cocktail hour and silent art auction, with more than 70 extraordinary works up for bidding. Among those in attendance were philanthropist Joan Firestone; Michael Sticka, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Museum; Gonzalo Casals, Senior Research and Policy Fellow for Arts and Culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; artist Chin Chih Yang (NYFA HoF ‘22); artist Nina Yankowitz; filmmaker Ela Troyano; Samira Abbassy (Fellow in Printmaking/Drawing/Artists’ Books 07, Painting ’18), one of several artists at the event whose work was featured in the auction; actor, singer, and musician Charlene Kaye (KAYE, NYC Women’s Fund ‘20), NYFA CEO Michael Royce; NYFA Board Chair Marc J. Jason; NYFA Vice Board Chair J. Wesley McDade; and board members Federico Acuna, Myrna Chao, Alexandra Chasin, Christopher Donini, Michael Findlay, Lesley-Anne Gliedman, Eunbi Kim, and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Justin Tobin, Elizabeth von Habsburg, and Sarah Young O’Donnell.

2023 Hall of Fame Benefit Co-Chairs Marc J. Jason, NYFA Board Chair, and J. Wesley McDade, NYFA Vice Board Chair
Image: 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit Co-Chairs Marc J. Jason, NYFA Board Chair, and J. Wesley McDade, NYFA Vice Board Chair, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

Marc J. Jason, NYFA Board Chair, and J. Wesley McDade, NYFA Vice Board Chair, the 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit Co-Chairs, welcomed the attendees at the seated dinner and introduced each honoree with a short video before inducting them into NYFA’s Hall of Fame. 

Callie Haines, Executive Vice President and Head of the New York and Boston regions for Brookfield Properties, spoke about real estate and how art is a major way for the ambiance of a place to be created. 

Callie Haines at NYFA's 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit
Image: Callie Haines, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

Brookfield Properties has been an ardent supporter of the arts and artists, including NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellows Xenobia Bailey, Robin Kang, and Jean Shin, for more than three decades. Through Arts Brookfield, Brookfield’s arts and culture program, Brookfield Properties supports innovation in—and public access to—music, dance, theatre, film, and visual art with free art exhibitions and experiences in and around its properties. 

Of Brookfield Properties’ relationship with NYFA, Haines said: “Brookfield’s connection to NYFA runs deep, and there’s been a very, very long history there. Many of our artists that we utilize across our portfolio come from NYFA, and many members of our team here at Arts Brookfield have also come from NYFA. Brookfield considers organizations like NYFA incredibly important to continue to grow the art and culture of New York City. Organizations like NYFA are imperative to help grow the younger generation of artists and provide the support they need in order to continue to grow their craft.”

When accepting on behalf of Brookfield Properties on stage, Haines noted “Few organizations have done more to support the arts and artists in the last 50 years than NYFA has done.”

Marylyn Dintenfass (NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Crafts ’87, NYFA Artist Advisory Committee ’87-’89) acknowledged the importance of NYFA’s support earlier on in her career: “When I got my NYFA grant, which was a long time ago, it created a sense of confidence with me that I was on the right track, that I was doing something that was being acknowledged and accepted, and that went a very, very long way especially at that time to give me the energy, the focus, the enthusiasm, to go forward. It was an invaluable asset to my career and my life.”

Marc J. Jason and J. Wesley McDade with Marylyn Dintenfass
Image: Marc J. Jason and J. Wesley McDade with Marylyn Dintenfass, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

She continued by underscoring what makes NYFA unique among arts organizations: “NYFA provides a home, a place that artists can go to to find kindred spirits, to find expertise, to find confidence that they need in all different areas. NYFA serves artists: visual artists, sound artists, painters, poets, writers, dancers. It’s extraordinary that this one organization can provide not only fellowships and money, but also support and information and expertise.”

Upon being inducted into the NYFA Hall of Fame, Dintenfass thanked NYFA and joked that it helped to bring her whole family together in one place. She paused to remember her late husband John Driscoll, who was a scholar and a connoisseur of the arts: “I’m so sorry he’s not here tonight, but he liked a good time and he liked good events and so I think that he’s definitely with us here.”

Commissioner Anne del Castillo addressed the arts from a micro and macro level saying: “I know I wouldn’t be the person I am were it not for the arts. My mother immigrated to the U.S. as a nurse from the Philippines and so I’m a first generation American. And, the arts was really where I connected to community and found a sense of identity. It certainly shaped my thinking, how I view the world, how I view community and collaboration. The arts not only show us a reflection of who we are, but also inspire us to imagine what we can be. That’s what drives my work, that’s what drives this city. The arts and entertainment are what make people want to come to New York City, whether it is to visit, to live, to do business. It really defines New York City and makes us essentially a global creative capital.”

Commissioner Anne del Castillo giving remarks at NYFA's 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit, Marc J. Jason and J. Wesley McDade in the background
Image: Commissioner Anne del Castillo giving remarks at NYFA’s 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit, Marc J. Jason and J. Wesley McDade in the background, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

On stage, del Castillo highlighted the economic impact of the sector, citing recent National Endowment for the Arts stats on the total economic value of arts and cultural production from 35 industries which include both commercial and nonprofit entities: $1 trillion and 4.4% of the national GDP, employing 4.9 million workers. “Those are really important numbers and I don’t think that it is something that we think about because everybody thinks it is ‘art for art’s sake’ but it really is an economic driver and it is a driver of our identity as New Yorkers, as Americans. It’s what really challenges us to think about who we want to be,” she said.

On MOME’s relationship with NYFA, which dates back to the 2018 inception of the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre, del Castillo said: “I’m particularly proud to be a partner with NYFA on the NYC Women’s Fund. I was raised by a village of women, so I know the power of women,” to great applause.

As Carmelita Tropicana (NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Performance Art ’87, NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Playwriting ’91 and ’06, NYFA Board Member)’s video began to play, she commanded it to stop in order to address benefit attendees directly: “Why would I do a video when we can be live, and we are all live here tonight because we know we all together are lovers of the KUNST. KUNST is German, German for art. KUNST with a capital K. Because big, big is what we want from the KUNST!”

Carmelita Tropicana giving live remarks at NYFA's 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit
Image: Carmelita Tropicana giving live remarks at NYFA’s 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

She thanked NYFA CEO Michael Royce, Marc J. Jason, J. Wesley McDade, and others who encouraged her to join NYFA’s Board of Trustees, and gave a special shout out to her sister, Ela Troyano, who told her to apply for the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Performance Art. 

“She said, you know that video that you had ‘Chicken Sushi,’ I’m going to tape ‘Chicken Sushi,’ your opus! And guess what, I won the NYFA grant with the ‘Chicken Sushi.’ You know where the ‘Chicken Sushi’ has gone? Do you have any idea where it has gone? It has gone first to the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, then the Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, and then Judy Brodsky, the wonderful Judy Brodsky [former NYFA Board Chair], actually includes it in a traveling art of NYFA, and guess where we go next…POUGHKEEPSIE…we went to POUGHKEEPSIE! I am so lucky, people!”

She sang her closing remarks, once again emphasizing the KUNST of the evening.

Charlene Kaye (KAYE), who received an NYC Women’s Fund grant in Music in 2020, addressed the crowd following Tropicana’s rousing speech. Kaye spoke about her journey from being outwardly successful in her career and personal life but inwardly unfulfilled to leaving her past life behind to pursue her solo work. “Despite my success on paper, I constantly lived with this gnawing feeling that I was sacrificing my true creativity to make everyone around me happy. As the first-born daughter of two Chinese immigrants, saying no is very hard for me…Even though I heard that “no” deep inside me, over the years I pushed it down and I pushed it down until one day it just came roaring out all at once.”

Charlene Kaye addressing the crowd at NYFA's 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit
Image: Charlene Kaye addressing the crowd at NYFA’s 2023 Hall of Fame Benefit, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

The songs that emerged became KAYE’s full-length album Conscious Control, an album she describes as being “unapologetically disobedient and exploring a life that for the first time belonged to me and me alone.”

She acknowledged that without the support of the NYC Women’s Fund, she would not have had the money and ability to record it properly to get it out in the world. 

“It turns out that choosing yourself pays off! The album was a success, I toured all over the world with it. But beyond that, NYFA’s support empowered me to trust myself, my voice, my creativity in a culture where women are often told that they shouldn’t,” said Kaye.

NYFA CEO Michel Royce closing out the night
Image: NYFA CEO Michel Royce closing out the night, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

As the evening drew to a close, NYFA CEO Michael Royce spoke emphatically about the value and importance of the arts: “Artists are universal healers, artists are the representation of civilization at its most aspirational. Artists are the expression of all humanity, but it takes time for artists to develop and grow. What NYFA does is to provide the patience capital, through philanthropic support, to get them where they need to go so they can take us where we need to be.”

Amy Aronoff
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