Harlem Arts Festival Announces 5th Anniversary Gala and Awards

Harlem Arts Festival hosts their 5th Anniversary Gala at the historic Alhambra Ballroom on Friday, March 18th at 7:30pm, for the debut of the 2016 Festival artists! Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, the Executive Director of Harlem Park to Park, and Zipcar will both receive the 2016 Lynnette Velasco Community Impact Award. Festival supporters will enjoy an evening of performances, dinner and dancing.

The Harlem Arts Festival (HAF) announced that Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, the Executive Director of Harlem Park to Park, will receive the 2016 Lynnette Velasco Community Impact Award at its 5th anniversary gala on Thursday, March 18th at the Alhambra Ballroom. In addition to being a historic Harlem location, the venue was the site of HAF’s first gala in 2012.

The Lynnette Velasco Community Impact Award was first introduced in 2013 to honor Councilwoman Inez Dickens’ late chief of staff Lynnette Velasco, who passed away unexpectedly in 2012. Lynnette was integral in making the Harlem Arts Festival, and many growing arts organizations in Harlem, possible. She provided advice, counsel, guidance and support to make HAF a success in its 1st year. HAF honors her memory each year through this distinguished award.

"Nikoa Evans-Hendricks' work celebrates Harlem's rich cultural diversity while supporting and bringing together our community in truly unique and innovative ways."

Neal Ludevig, Co-Founder, Executive Director

Past recipients of the award include Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, Linda Walton, Executive Director of the Harlem Arts Alliance, and the late musician and social activist Fred Ho.

Nikoa Evans-Hendricks, the 2016 Lynnette Velasco Community Impact Award recipient, is a founding board member and Executive Director of Harlem Park to Park (HP2P), a neighborhood development organization of 130+ entrepreneurs in Central Harlem. HP2P has organized local events such as Food and Drink Blvd, the Harlem Harvest Festival, Harlem Days Harlem Nights, and more since 2009. Most recently, HP2P was the selected charity for Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem EatUp! Festival in Morningside Park.

Nikoa Evans-Hendricks' work celebrates Harlem’s rich cultural diversity while supporting and bringing together our community in truly unique and innovative ways,” said Neal Ludevig, Executive Director of the Harlem Arts Festival. “She personifies everything that Lynnette Velasco believed in and stood for during her life.”

HAF has commissioned 2015 HAF Visual Artist Deborah Omi Gray to design the 2016 award. Councilwoman Dickens is confirmed to attend and speak.

HAF will also honor car sharing leader, Zipcar, for its contribution to creating a safer, more environmentally-friendly space in Harlem where locals can enjoy the neighborhood’s arts and culture. Zipcar has renewed and increased its pledge from last year to support the commission of another #harlemartcar at a Supporter Level. Last year’s #harlemartcar, made by HAF 2014 Artist Victor “Slone” Ramos, was so well received by the community that the vehicle remains in operation, with a dollar donated to Harlem School for the Arts for each hour it is driven.

“Zipcar’s long-standing commitment to making cities better places to live is exemplified through our partnership with the Harlem Arts Festival,” said Anthony Fatone, Zipcar regional general manager. “We’re pleased to receive this honor and look-forward to continuing to support and foster art and culture in the Harlem community.”

Gala attendees will receive the first announcement of 2016 HAF artists and will have an opportunity to meet all of them at the gala. Attendees will also preview a performance by 2016 artist and emerging Harlem saxophonist, Braxton Cook. as well as Jazzmobile vocalist winner and performer from HAF’s 1st gala in 2012, Brianna Thomas. Performance artist Jarrett Key will create a Hair Painting on site, to be auctioned off at the end of the night.

HAF selects its artists through an application and Artistic Selection Committee comprised of individuals from organizations within the community that include The Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Harlem School for the Arts, and more.

About Braxton Cook

Braxton Cook is a Harlem resident and recent Juilliard graduate. He was a member of the 2009 Grammy Jazz Ensemble, a 2009 National ACT-SO Gold Medalist, 2010 NFAA YoungARTS Finalist, and a 2013 Thelonious Monk Competition semi-finalist. He currently tours with two-time Edison Award-winning, Grammy-nominated American trumpeter Christian Scott in his band, the Christian Scott Quartet.

About Brianna Thomas

Brianna Thomas has performed with many jazz greats including Clark Terry, Wycliffe Gordon, Mulgrew Miller, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Malone, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Kurt Elling, and Dianne Reeves. She has appeared at Jazz At Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, the prestigious Montreaux, Umbria, Bern, and Sochi Jazz Festivals, and more. Thomas was a 2014 musical ambassador and toured South East Asia for the "American Music Abroad" program and Jazzmobile vocalist winner in 2009. She currently teaches with JALC's Jazz For Young People Program.

About Jarrett Key

Born and raised in Seale, AL, Jarrett Key is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist, who investigates the relationship between traditional visual art and performance practices by integrating movement, music, and heightened language. Jarrett’s creative pursuits have led to performances and exhibitions in NYC, Brooklyn, Boston and Shanghai. He is currently the Assistant to the Associate Producer at The Public Theater and the producing director of Codify Art, a multidisciplinary collective of queer artists of color. Jarrett is a graduate of Brown University,  where he studied Public Policy and Theater Arts.

Tickets are available now from $75 and can be purchased at the Harlem Arts Festival Gala page.

About the Harlem Arts Festival

The Harlem Arts Festival is an annual multi-disciplinary event at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park that showcases local performers and visual artists that inspire and nourish the artistic community in Harlem. HAF’s mission is to provide resources, visibility and career opportunities to artists, to increase participation and engagement in the arts by the Harlem community, and to continue Harlem’s artistic legacy of making art that preserves the history and develops the identity of Harlem. To learn more about the festival visit the Harlem Arts Festival website.