*The Friends of Education (FOE), founded in 1993, is an affiliate group of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). FOE’s mission is to foster a greater appreciation of art created by African American artists and to encourage African American participation in the activities and membership of MoMA. In addition to financial support, members provide invaluable assistance to the Museum’s outreach efforts to the African American community.
Every two years, the exemplary organization hosts Jazz Interlude, a bicentennial bash in which it honors exceptional art advocates. All proceeds from the event benefits FOE which enables the museum to acquire important works by African American artists; to increase its outreach to the African American community; and to support the Museum’s extensive educational programming.
The glitzy gala took place on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 and featured a glamorous cocktail reception, formal dinner, an awards program and live music performance by jazz musician Terence Blanchard whose work has been featured in Spike Lee films such as “25th Hour” (2002), “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” (2006), and “Miracle at St. Anna” (2008).
During the jazzy awards program, FOE honored artist and filmmaker Spike Lee and philanthropists Mera & Donald Rubell. The two honorees join a list of distinguished Jazz Interludes honorees including Lois & Roland W. Betts and Elizabeth Catlett (2010), Agnes Gund and David Rockefeller Jr. (2008), Dr. Camille O. Cosby (2006), Dorothy Cullman (2004) and George Wein (2001).
Spike Lee is among the best known and most honored African American feature and documentary filmmakers of the past 30 years. Lee’s work covers a broad range, from the socially relevant to biographical and from comedy to crime-drama. Lee’s most recent documentary “Bad 25” celebrates the success of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album, and he is currently in production on a remake of the popular “Korean film Oldboy.”
A number of his films are included within MoMA’s vast film collection: “School Daze” (1988), “Do the Right Thing” (1989), and “Get on the Bus” (1996). Lee’s student film, “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads,” was also included in New Directors/News Films in 1982, the annual film festival co-organized by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Lee is an advocate for African American visual artists and was delighted to see the evening promote support for African American visual artists. “It was great to see so many people supporting African American artists. Hopefully they get more sponsors for Black artists. I’m an artist so all of the arts inspire me,” he said.
Mera & Don Rubell are well-known as longstanding champions of young artists. The Rubell Family Collection — which first opened to the public in 1993 — contains over 6,000 works of art by prominent contemporary artists including, Robert Colescott, Damien Hirst, Paul McCarthy, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Glenn Ligon, Takashi Murakami, Cindy Sherman, and Kara Walker.
The artwork is displayed in thematic exhibitions that often travel to museums worldwide. Most notably, the Rubells demonstrated their commitment to African American artists through 30 Americans (2008–13), a traveling exhibition that highlights their collection of 30 significant African American artists who have been working over the last three decades.
But wait, the evening wasn’t over yet! ‘Round about 9:30pm to Midnight, dinner guests were joined by avid FOE enthusiasts who attended the third tier of the evening’s festivities — the popular Jazz Interlude Benefit after-party headlined by Jason Moran and the Bandwagon featuring Tarus Mateen and Nasheet Waits, with special guest Ravi Coltrane..
The 2012 Jazz Interlude event chair was Sherry B. Bronfman; co-chaired by Eboni S. Gates and Noel Hankin. Honorary co-chairs were Agnes Gund, Tonya Lewis Lee and David Rockefeller, Jr. Among the guests were Rosie Perez, Adrian Grenier, Roland & Lois Betts, Ben Bronfman, Hannah Bronfman, Thelma Golden, Kalup Linzy, Ariana Rockefeller, Mickalene Thomas and Michael D. Woodson. Throughout the evening, wine and spirits were provided compliments of Moët Hennessey USA.
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.