The WACO Theate Center brought Harlem to Hollywood with the return of the Wearable Art Gala. Held at the Barker Hangar, the event showcased the Harlem Renaissance—an era of sophistication and style in American history—while bringing notable names together for a worthy cause.
“As we continue to navigate the setbacks of the pandemic, we are excited for the opportunity to gather again in person and garner support for the artists, audiences and young people that our work serves and will continue to serve,” shared Richard Lawson, an actor and co-founder of the WACO Theater Center. "It’s a party with a purpose and after two years virtually, I’m glad that we can connect, continue to pour into our mentees and at the same time, honor a piece of our history through this artistic experience."
EBONY, a proud media sponsor of the event, was pleased to assist in bringing this magnificent vision to life. Here are a few of the best moments from the 2022 Wearable Art Gala.
Kalen Allen and Keke Palmer Were the Host and Hostess With the Mostest
Kalen Allen, a comedian and media personality, has come a long way since being discovered on The Ellen Show. Last night, he greeted guests of the gala on the red carpet while providing witty commentary to paint an image of the scene in real time.
Additionally, Keke Palmer is a master at making an entrance and knows how to get the people going. In her opening number featuring 1920's themed flapper dancers, Palmer emerged from a cloud of feathers and kicked off the evening.
EBONY Ballroom Helped Set the Harlem Tone
The 1920s were not only known for its impactful music and art, but for the venues that gave birth to memorable aspects of the Harlem Renaissance movement. The Cotton Club, the Savoy Ballroom and the Apollo Theater are primary examples of this. The WACO Theater Center graciously invited EBONY to share space during the evening through a re-creation and manifestation of those iconic establishments with the EBONY Ballroom, in which guests were able to enjoy standout photo moments, while sipping on cocktails and vibing with one another.
Black Hollywood's Best and Brightest Made Appearances
From Lela Rochon, who was in the 1989 Harlem Nights film, to Boris Kodjoe and Lori Harvey, Black Hollywood showed up en masse in support of this wonderful event. Folks showed that they understood the assignment as they dressed to the nines with 1920s-inspired pieces and were chauffeured to the event in classic autos from the 1920s and 1930s.
If you tuned into the gala's red carpet via Instagram Live, then you know that the international BeyHive was out in full effect. Queen Bey and hubby Jay-Z were in attendance and looked dapper as usual. One of the experiences auctioned off was a night at one of Beyoncé's tour dates for her upcoming Renaissance tour in summer 2023. The package was auctioned off at $50,000.
Along with this, phenomenal and thought-provoking pieces of art were auctioned off from up-and-coming and established artists. Media personality and Divorce Court judge Star Jones served as the official art auctioneer for the evening.
The 1920's Were Reimagined Through Spectacular Performances
A focal point of the 1920's Harlem Renaissance was the innovation in music, song, visual art and dance. At the event, flappers, dancers, cigar girls and a Moms Mabley impersonator took the stage. Andra Day channeled Billie Holiday and performed her songs.
Additional highlights of the evening included performances by Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey, the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA), the Chicago Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence Marcus Norris conducting the dynamic South Side Symphony, Daytime Emmy Award winner Obba Babatundé, Grammy-nominated Jazz and R&B Music Hall of Famer Freda, Los Angeles-based DJ Millie and award-winning artist, producer and Club Quarantine creator, D-Nice.
Actress Angela Bassett and Artist Mark Bradbury Receive Awards
During the evening, Angela Bassett was honored with the Film and TV Icon Award, and artist Mark Bradbury was blessed with Art Icon Award. These awards celebrated Basset and Bradbury's brilliance, their dedication to their craft and their contributions to the Black artistic landscape and beyond.
In an interview with EBONY, Tina Knowles-Lawson, a co-founder of WACO Theater Center, shared, "Mark Bradford is the ultimate artist and human being. He and his partner have built a museum in the middle of Leimert Park, a conscious renovation of the neighborhood where they still reside. It's so fascinating. He's terrific, and it's important to acknowledge him not only for his art and work in major museums worldwide but also for him being an incredible human being. He gives back to his community. As far as Angela Bassett is concerned, she deserves all the flowers we can gather and give her. This woman has been in approximately 150 movies, and she's worked well beyond the 1990s and almost every year since. She has a stellar career and is still the most kind, down-to-earth human being. We can't say enough about those two people."