NYFA Inducts Nina Yankowitz, Donna Uchizono, and Rockefeller Capital Management into its Hall of Fame at Annual Benefit

NYFA Inducts Nina Yankowitz, Donna Uchizono, and Rockefeller Capital Management into its Hall of Fame at Annual Benefit
Image: NYFA Board Chair Marc J. Jason, Donna Uchizono, Nina Yankowitz, Greg Fleming and NYFA CEO Michael Royce, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

NYFA’s spring gala celebrated artists and arts patrons.

On Wednesday, April 3, NYFA’s annual Hall of Fame Benefit brought over 300 artists, art patrons, arts professionals, and arts lovers together at Gotham Hall in Manhattan in celebration of the arts, inducting Visual Artist Nina Yankowitz, Choreographer Donna Uchizono, and Patron of the Arts Rockefeller Capital Management into its Hall of Fame.

The annual event is a celebration of artistic achievement and community support that bolsters NYFA’s mission to empower and sustain artists and cultural workers of all career stages and disciplines. Established in 2011 as NYFA’s most significant fundraiser, the ticketed event featured cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, dinner and an awards presentation, and dessert. The 2024 Benefit kicked off with a cocktail hour and silent art auction, with more than 75 extraordinary works up for bidding.

Image: Guests enjoying the art auction during cocktail hour at NYFA’s 2024 Hall of Fame Benefit, Image Credit: Clint Spaulding

Among those in attendance were Alton Murray, Deputy Commissioner of NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs; David Rockefeller, Jr.; artists Audrée Anid, (NYFA IAP Alumna), and Ami Park, (NYFA IAP Alumna) whose work was featured in the auction; Chin Chih Yang (NYFA HoF’22); Melissa Friedling (NYC Women’s Fund Documentary Short ’20); 2023 honorees Anne del Castillo, Carmelita Tropicana, and Marylyn Dintenfass; NYFA CEO Michael Royce; NYFA Board Chair Marc J. Jason; NYFA Vice Board Chair J. Wesley McDade; Event Co-Chairs Sarah Young O’Donnell and Lesley-Anne Gliedman; Artist Committee members Jennifer Wen Ma, and James Casebere; and board members Federico Acuna, Myrna Chao, Alexandra Chasin, Caroline Black, Christopher Donini, Michael Findlay, Angela Henry, Eunbi Kim, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Whitney Stevens, and Elizabeth von Habsburg.

Angela Henry, NYFA Board Member, welcomed the attendees at the seated dinner and acknowledged the night’s honorees, recognizing NYFA’s role in empowering artists. “While we each have our own unique story and inspiration for being here this evening, our connection to NYFA and our belief in the arts binds us together,” she said.

Image: Angela Henry, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

Event Co-Chairs Sarah Young O’Donnell and Lesley-Anne Gliedman began the awards ceremony by introducing Rockefeller Capital Management and speaking of their partnership with NYFA. “NYFA has had the pleasure of partnering with RCM for three years, but the Rockefeller family and its businesses have been supporting the arts for over 100 years, since the very beginnings,” said Lesley-Anne. Sarah continued “With their support we’ve been fortunate enough to curate several exhibitions at 45 Rockefeller Plaza. Our collaboration with RCM has created an amazing alternative exhibition space to showcase NYFA-affiliated artists’ work and reach new audiences. This partnership has also helped our artists build new networks and enhance their visibility in a dynamic professional environment.”

Greg Fleming, CEO of Rockefeller Capital Management, emphasized the importance of NYFA’s work to support established and emerging artists and arts organizations. “The work that you do to support established and emerging artists and arts organizations we believe is critically important. We agree wholeheartedly that the arts can be transformative for everyone in society. This is something the Rockefeller family has helped make happen for generations. We’re delighted to be part of your work in making the arts accessible to the broadest possible audience,” said Fleming.

Image: Greg Fleming giving remarks at NYFA’s 2024 Hall of Fame Benefit, Sarah Young O’Donnell and Lesley-Anne Gliedman in the background, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

In closing, Fleming shared a special thank you to David Rockefeller, whose vision for creating a vibrant and dynamic space by incorporating New York City artists at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, can be enjoyed today.

Fellow honoree, Donna Uchizono (NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Choreography 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2019) began by posing a question: “If you were to dedicate a dance to someone, who would that person be?” Uchizono went on to emphasize dance as a social art form: “I am a dance artist, I’m a choreographer, dance maker, a dancer, an improviser, an advocate, and I would probably say that roughly 90% of my work is set, but it is about the collaboration with the dance artist – when we improvise. Sometimes I come in with set pieces, but dance is a social art form. You can’t make things without dancers and I owe them so much.”

Image: Donna Uchizono, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

When reflecting on the impact of receiving her first fellowship from NYFA in 1996, Uchizono shared: “It was acknowledgment that ‘I’m an artist’ and that my work has value. Maybe my peers have respect for me and that’s precious, right?”

Uchizono concluded remarks by answering her initial inquiry: “When I think about who I would dedicate the dance to, I would dedicate the dance to every dancer I’ve had the privilege to make work with. Dance exists and is on our radar because of dancers.”

Upon her induction into the Hall of Fame, Nina Yankowitz (NYFA CAPS Fellow in Visual Art 1976) highlighted the fabric of the arts community and thanked the individuals in the room for their contributions to the makeup of that fabric. Nina also touched on the impact of collaboration on her work and the importance of unabashed creative pursuits: “My practice has been based on helping people to see out of the box. Life is not linear and neither is creativity. Just burst it all out! I believe that anything is doable. It may not be in my scope to be able to do it, but I know there are ways to do it. Nobody’s a lone ranger. Life is collaborative. Nothing is singular. I’ve been influenced by very many brilliant women and unsung sheros.”

Image: Sarah Young O’Donnell and Lesley-Anne Gliedman with Nina Yankowitz, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

Regarding NYFA, Nina noted: “I so appreciate NYFA for allowing this large community to exist. Non-judgemental, just caring and exploring – allowing artists to just have the freedom to explore, disrupt. Everybody needs a NYFA in their life!” Ending on an inspiring note, Nina encouraged the room to “Go for it! We all have something unique to say.”

Yasemin Özümerzifon (Emerging Leaders 2013 Participant, Emerging Leaders Advisor 2018-2020, and Incubator for Executive Leaders of Color Advisor 2021-2023), Senior Director of Community Action, Gibney Dance, was then welcomed to the stage. Özümerzifon’s experience with NYFA has come full circle, having first joined the NYFA community as a participant in the Emerging Leaders 2013 program, then returning as an advisor to the Emerging Leaders, and most recently serving as an advisor with the Executive Leaders of Color. When reflecting on the impact of the initial experience with NYFA programming Özümerzifon stated: “I felt heard and witnessed, I felt like I could be myself. I had permission to talk about failure and fail, and I felt a sense of belonging. It’s not uncommon to feel siloed as an arts administrator, we juggle a lot! And for me it was transformative to witness that I wasn’t alone in the challenges I was facing and I made lifelong connections.”

Image: Yasemin Özümerzifon, Photo Credit: Clint Spaulding

“We all are part of a field/an ecosystem that can offer that environment where people can show up just
as they are and imagine/reimagine new futures. And what an invaluable and irreplaceable gift that is!” said Özümerzifon, echoing the night’s recurring sentiments by acknowledging the fabric/ecosystem that NYFA, the honorees, and the audience members are part of.

As the evening drew to a close, NYFA CEO Michael Royce noted NYFA’s 13 years of inducting exceptional honorees into the Hall of Fame, expressed appreciation for the support of the evening’s attendees, and took a moment to bring attention back to the artists always at the center of the evening: “Of course the biggest thank you goes to the artists that donated their works tonight, all the artists in this room, and artists everywhere who make the world a much nicer place just by being who they are.”

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