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Sharon Gardner and Paul Carroll
Photo by Chance Yeh

Generous Socialites Mark
Rebirth of an Institution

By Roger Webster

WCA-NYC’s first annual spring gala in the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park was all about art and helping others, especially women helping women. They called it Renaissance to represent the 132-year-old institution’s rebirth.

About $125,000 was raised for such programs as the Center for Arts and Culture, Center for Workforce Development, Center for Children and Youth, and the Angela Perez Center for Persons with Disabilities, representing just a few of the ways they touch the lives of so many.

The evening was put together by chairs H. Hartley du Pont, Joelle O_Reilly-Hyland and Steven H. Miller along with the YWCA’s board of directors including president Constance Tate, chair Patricia Geoghegan, vice president Anne Davidson and staff members Jennifer Lopez and Pam Palmer. Polly Onet and Jill Fischer did a great job of event planning.

Janis and Charles Cecil

The honorary chairs were Holly Solomon, the amazing art dealer who, sadly, died last month; Jane Seymour, who had to miss as she was playing a real life medicine woman in equatorial Africa helping treat children in the middle of a dangerous measles epidemic, and Kimberly Rockefeller, who was there shopping with her mother Jackie Eckles and George Gumina, the husband of her husband Steven’s cousin Rachel.

The honoree was B. Smith, who was with her husband Dan Gasby and their daughter Dana.

B. Smith received the Legacy Award for her support of the arts in all its many forms and long time advocacy of the YWCA.  “We are the wind beneath the young girls’ wings,” she said, and to demonstrate, she sang a sweet song about a child’s heart.

The National Arts Club, of course, is itself a major work of art in itself. The party was held on the very grand second floor with NAC president Aldon James making sure everything went smoothly.

The gallery was filled with pieces donated by some of the city’s most famous artists and including Peter Max, Colette, James Rosenquist, Al Hirshfeld, Alice McAdams, Kenny Scharf, Laura Lee Ross, Marnie Pomerantz, Andrew Bush and Leith Rutherford Talamo.

Hartley du Pont (left) presents
crystal bowl to B. Smith.

Hugh Hildesley of Sotheby’s led a live auction of original works donated by maestros such as Hunt Slonem, Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, George Rodrigue, Betsey Johnson, Hedy Klineman, Nicole Miller and Rachel Hovnanian.

One of the highlights was the bidding on a very special boxed set of 19th Century hand-crafted hair combs donated by Laurance Rockefeller; they once belonged to his late wife Mary French Rockefeller.

Among those buying art, sipping delightful Veuve Clicquot champagne and eating a delicious dinner were committee members Jill Brooke, Jennifer Creel, Grace Hightower, Richard Torrenzano, Mark Gilbertson, and Dr. Howard Sobel, who donated a spa day from his Skin & Spa salon.

Jill Brooke and
Dr. Howard Sobel

Among the 325 guests were Tim Schifter, playwright Jason Grant, Janis and Charles Cecil, Sharon Gardner and Paul Carroll, art dealer Thomas Knapp, PR whizzes Amy Rosi, Heather Carnevale and Christine Shaw, CeCe Cord, R. Couri Hay and Heidi Albertsen, Cynthia Lufkin, Alexandra Lind Rose and Barbara and Glen Fief.

Everybody seemed unusually happy (art and helping others can do that) and the YWCA-NYC is certainly deserving of all the attention. Since its inception in 1870, it has been a pioneer for social and political change by founding revolutionary programs for girls, women, families and communities.

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