Come Chill at Jazzy

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For 43 years, the Gantt Center has kept cool. 

Preserving and presenting facets of Blackness has remained central to its mission.

From the mystic coolness of West African civilizations,

to the emergence of cool jazz in the Forties,

to that elusive cool exuded in attitude, looks, strides, speech and ways of being . . .

Remarkably, the best of African American art and culture has come to characterize coolness. As designer Christian LaCroix astutely observed:

…the history of cool in America is the history of African American culture.

This sums up my organizing concept that will shape this year’s JAZZY HOLIDAY GALA. Six months from now at Jazzy 2017, the Gantt Center will celebrate the ineffable style and aesthetic known as Black Cool. 

An elegant black-tie gala, Jazzy 2017 will take place on Saturday, December 2 in the expansive Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center. This is the 37th year of Jazzy, the Gantt Center’s signature fundraising event and Charlotte’s not-to-be-missed holiday tradition.

Jazzy 2017 is on track to become the Gantt Center’s largest gala ever, attracting as many as 1,000 guests. The gala generates crucial dollars to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps African American art, culture and history alive and thriving in Charlotte.

At 6:00 pm, Jazzy will kick off with a festive cocktail reception. Fun and fellowship continue with dinner and wine, award presentations, impact stories, opportunities to give, live entertainment and dancing. Individual seats are $250. A range of sponsorships and benefits is available to corporations, small businesses and individuals. Learn more at ganttcenter.org.

 2017 Spirit of the Center Award Recipients

Ferguson Chambers & Sumter | esteemed Charlotte-based law firm which has earned an international reputation for affirming civil rights

Charles Farrar | Charlotte’s world-class artisan who through woodturning produces finely crafted bowls and vases, prized by museums and art collectors

Philip Freelon | renowned architect of the Gantt Center and numerous cultural institutions, most recently the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture 

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture presents, preserves and celebrates excellence in the art, history and culture of African-Americans and people of African descent. Come chill at Jazzy and invest in our collective future with your support of the Gantt Center. 

I’m excited, once again, to play a part in envisioning and organizing one of Charlotte’s most important, hot-ticket events. Take a look Jazzy last year and the year before last and the one before that and before that!

— VF

Charlotte’s ‘Art & Soul’

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Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Bernard Gantt at Jazzy 2016

As the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture revs up for its major fundraiser, Jazzy Holiday Gala 2017—which, by the way, will be the COOLEST ever—here are some photos and the new sizzle reel from Jazzy 2016 (thanks to the most-talented Ben Premeaux!).  After such an awesomely rosy and red hot event last year, I can’t wait to share with you my ideas for Jazzy 2017!

Photos and a recap of past years can be found here and here and here.

Please watch and enjoy the sizzle reel! https://youtu.be/gcTtXhqN3rA

Roses For The Living

 

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My sister Diatra and me miraculously still standing and smiling after 72 hours of nonstop event prep, heavy lifting and rose wall creation for the Gantt Center’s 2016 Jazzy Holiday Gala.

This year the Jazzy Holiday Gala was organized around the idea of art & soul, conveying the unique and vital role the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture plays in Charlotte’s artistic and cultural scene and in the lives of youth, artists, educators, families and others, in communities near and far. Together at The Center was the evening’s mantra.

Jazzy is an elegant black-tie gala and major fundraiser of the Gantt Center. After three decades, it’s become a holiday tradition in Charlotte. For the past five years, I’ve been the creative strategist/event consultant for Jazzy. Photos from past events can be seen here and here and here. As with each year, I approached the event as a large-scale art project, beginning with an organizing concept through which an important narrative from the Gantt Center can be told. Then I built out the concept from the color palette to visual design to key messages and scripting to art forms and media to the presenters to the flow of the evening.

This year, art & soul emerged as perfect because the Gantt Center is a state-of-the-art building located in the heart of Charlotte, and it carries a mission to preserve African American culture and to present art in all its forms. Its location holds particular significance because it stands in what was once the thriving, predominately Black neighborhood of Brooklyn. In innumerable ways, the Gantt Center embodies Charlotte’s heart, art and soul.

On Saturday, December 3, more than 700 guests gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center and helped raise $300,000 to advance the Gantt Center’s mission, which keeps art & soul alive and thriving in Charlotte. The event’s Presenting Sponsor was Bank of America. Gala Co-Chairs were Dr. Tiffani Jones & Thaddeus Jones and Allison & Tim Atwell, who led a Host Committee that included: Ned Austin, Victor Fields, Joan Higginbotham, Charles Horton, Michelle Horton, Jerri Irby, Alene Paraison, Yandrick Paraison and Natalie Pittman.

2016 Spirit of the Center Award recipients were: PNC (corporate citizenship and partnership); Richard J. Powell, Ph.D. of Duke University (art and culture); and Mrs. Sarah Stevenson, a founding board member of the Gantt Center (philanthropy and community).

The gala opened at 6:00 pm with an hour-long cocktail reception and was followed by dinner, award presentations, art & soul impact stories, an appeal for membership, music by Al Jasper & Friends and dancing. Membership was the focus of the evening’s fundraising appeal. Throughout the evening, gala attendees were urged to becoming a new member,  renew a membership, upgrade a membership and “gift” membership for others. The aim was for every guest to purchase a membership.

A live rose wall served as the event’s focal centerpiece. Guests posed in front of a backdrop of 1,000s of red rose blossoms as photographer Jon Strayhorn took beautiful portraits (see some of Jon’s photos below). A wall of windows outside the ballroom were transformed into a photography exhibition with artful images by Ortega Gaines. A sleek program booklet comprised colorful photographs, indicative of the Gantt Center’s art & soul.

But one glorious night, Jazzy celebrates what the Gantt Center carries out nearly 365 days a year, why it has garnered community support for 42 years, and how it works to shape the future by engaging generation after generation. Whether it’s art and soul, young and old, global and local, or black, white and brown, we come together at The Center.

View the photo slideshow by clicking an image.

 

BIG Night for the Gantt Center

B I G  T H A N K S.   B I G  H E I G H T S.   B I G  N I G H T.

For the past four years, I’ve been the event consultant on the Jazzy Holiday fundraising events of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture. Year after year, I have witnessed the event grow in a myriad of ways, so this year I picked the theme “BIG” for Jazzy. It seems the universe was listening and served up an event bigger than I ever imagined. Every element seemed to come “super-sized”.

The 2015 Jazzy Holiday Gala took place at the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday, December 5. The event featured not only big art, a “big cheese” table, a big bar, big opportunities to give and a big band called Big Blast and the Party Masters but also preview performances by the world-renowned Dance Theater of Harlem and Spirit of the Center awards to Duke Energy, arts patrons Dr. Yele Aluko and Dr. Shirley Aluko-Houston, and Lonnie Bunch of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. People and entities of huge prominence in their respective spheres.

And arguably best of all, the event helped the Gantt Center raise over $500,000—the largest amount ever raised in the 35-year history of the “Jazzy” fundraising luncheons and galas. We set our intention with the BIG concept, and it was delivered, big time!

Here’s a link to a Storify.com recap of the event and below are some event photographs, along with a written account of the organizing concept that framed Jazzy 2015.


Organizing Concept for Jazzy 2015

Last year the Gantt Center celebrated its 40th anniversary. Now, in the 41st year, the Center sits in full recognition of its evolution from a seed of an idea into a big institution. After tremendous growth since 1974, the mission and daily work of the Center are reflected in a big building, big city, big contributions, big membership roll, big opportunities, big expectations and more.

While big is perceived the ultimate attainment, big things are realized only through the sum of innumerable little things and small acts. Decades are built on brief moments. An art collection begins with one piece. One spellbinding performance bursts from practiced small moves. A masterful painting emerges from a thousand brushstrokes. The largesse of a major donor begins with the experiences of a once impressionable child. Little things make big things happen.

The 2015 Jazzy Holiday Gala is designed as an expression of gratitude and recognition of the bigness and boldness of the Gantt Center and of Black culture. Without a multitude of everyday achievements, small contributions, untold sacrifices and mundane milestones, we could have never reached the grand heights of today. And without ongoing community commitment, both large and small, we will never fulfill our biggest dreams, our most audacious hopes or our immense potential to be great.

Click a photo to access the sideshow format.

Photographs courtesy of the Gantt Center as well as from my iPhone and social media

— VF