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Peter Beard, Anderson Cooper, former Tennessee Representative Harold Ford, Jr., Gordon Parks’ daughter Leslie Parks, Fab Five Freddy (Photo Credit: Patrick McMullan)

*2012 marked the centennial anniversary for the Gordon Parks Foundation co-founded by famed photographer Gordon Parks and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr.  In observance of this milestone, organizations across New York will host an array of events beginning this month that will feature a major museum exhibition, the publication of a five-volume box set of his photographs published by Steidl/The Gordon Parks Foundation, gallery exhibitions, public art projects, lectures, film screenings and centennial scholarships to support the arts.

These events will present both iconic and rarely seen images by Parks and greatly add to the conversation about the artistic, cultural, and political impact of his work that Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.”

The glamorous centerpiece of this centennial celebration was the star-studded Gordon Parks Centennial Gala that took place on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and featured cocktails, dinner, live musical performances and live auction.  A video display of Gordon Parks and his iconic photographs greeted celebrities and luminaries from art, fashion, music and entertainment as they entered MoMA to attend Gordon Parks 100 Years: The Gordon Parks Foundation gala and celebrate his birth and contributions to the art world.

Host Anderson Cooper, anchor of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and host and executive producer of “Anderson,” the nationally syndicated, daily one-hour daytime talk show, welcomed the dressed to the nines guests followed by a wonderful dining experience meticulously catered by Creative Edge Parties.

Guests dined on Black Grape Grana Salad; Grass Fed Filet Mignon & Sort Rib; Buttermilk Biscuits and Ficelles; “Snickers” Bar (Irish Cream Ice Cream, Peanut Brittle, Dark Chocolate Drizzle) and BV Sauvignon Blanc and Navarro Coreas Cabernet Sauvignon.

Celebrated jazz trumpeter and bandleader Irvin Mayfield and singer and YoungArts scholarship winner Nia Drummond, provided electrifying entertainment.  Accompanied by Mario Sprouse on piano, Drummond dazzled guests with performances of “The Learning Tree” and “Over the Rainbow.”  The young singer is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Centennial Scholarship sponsored by YoungArts whose mission is to identify the next generation of emerging artists in the performing, visual, and literary arts, to provide educational enrichment and assistance in their pursuit of the arts, and to foster a greater appreciation for the arts.

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Gordon Parks Foundation executive director Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. with event host Anderson Cooper (Photo Credit: Patrick McMullan)

Gordon Parks Foundation executive director Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. announced the other Gordon Parks photography scholarship winners:  Rebecca Iasillo, a senior photography major at SUNY Purchase College, was the recipient of the Nikon Gordon Parks Photography Scholarship consisting of a $25,000 endowment which is awarded a photography student whose work reflects the passion, vision and humanity of Gordon Parks; Jared Ray, winner of the HBO Gordon Parks Film Scholarship that recognizes new talent that has come out of the Ghetto Film School in Bronx, New York whose mission is to educate, develop and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers; and Shalisa Chang, recipient of the Gordon Parks Centennial Scholarship sponsored by Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.  Rush Kids/Teens serves youth who are eager to explore new forms of creativity and self-expression, to expand their understanding of the contemporary art and culture that surrounds them, and develop new ideas and ways of thinking about their world.

The event also featured two film clips: Excerpts from HBO’s “Half Past Autumn” (Gordon Parks with Isaac Hayes on “Shaft”) featuring the “Theme from Shaft” performed by Rosie’s Theater Kids with choreography by Kyle Pleasant.  Also “The Making of Gordon’s “Collected Works.”

The main attraction following dinner was a tribute to three remarkable individuals at the pinnacle of creativity in the fields of film, fashion, media and art embody Park’s artistic passion and vision.  The honorees included singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, presented by John Legend; photographer Annie Leibovitz, presented by Paul Roth; and co-president of HBO Richard Plepler, presented by Senator Christopher J. Dodd.

Keys was unable to attend but delivered her acceptance speech via video link.  Her mentor Clive Davis, chief creative officer Sony Music, accepted the award on her behalf.  “How fitting that you be honored tonight by the wonderful Gordon Parks Foundation.  Your songs and your entire body of work are now sung all over the world and provide both entertainment and inspiration to millions,” Davis stated as a proud father.  “Every year, every day, you give your heart and your soul to your great charity, ‘Keep a Child Alive.’  And your appreciation and support of the Arts is limitless.  What all of this adds up to is a young renaissance woman creating magic everywhere,” Davis beamed.  “I’m here tonight to help pay tribute with my love, admiration and respect.”

During an exciting live benefit auction Sotheby’s top auctioneer Hugh Hildesley raised additional funds to preserve the work of Parks and benefit his scholarship fund.  At show’s end, guests returned to the main floor outside the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden to get their party on at the swinging after-party featuring hotly spun music by James Murphy DJ Set (dfa/led soundsystem).

Karl Lagerfeld and Gerhard Steidl served as honorary chairs and dinner chairs included Wallis Annenberg, Nancy and Tim Armstrong, Clive Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Diana Krall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jed Root, Isabella Rossellini, Russell Simmons, Alexander Soros, Oscar Tang, and Gloria Vanderbilt.

Gala benefit committee members included David Parks, Gordon Parks III, Leslie Parks, Toni Parks Parsons, and Iman, John Demsey, Thelma Golden, Whoopi Goldberg, Bethann Hardison, Jamie Hector, Iman, Liya Kebede, Spike Lee, Tangie Murray, Desiree Rogers, Marcus Samuelsson, André Leon Talley and Vanessa Williams.

To commemorate the centennial of the birth of photographer, filmmaker, musician, and writer Gordon Parks (1912–2006), International Center of Photography (ICP) is presenting a public art project which includes a large-scale photo mural and slideshow of images he captured throughout his long, illustrious career.  The installation Gordon Parks: 100 Years will be on view through January 6, 2013 at ICP.  It is organized by Maurice Berger in cooperation with The Gordon Parks Foundation.  http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions/gordon-parks-100-years

The Gordon Parks Foundation was co-founded by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. and famed photographer Gordon Parks.  The Foundation is a division of the Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation.  The Foundation permanently preserves the work of Gordon Parks and other artists, makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, and electronic media and supports artistic and educational activities that advance what Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.”

According to Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University, “Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism.  Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.”

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j bernard

Audrey J. Bernard