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.