On Thursday, March 13th, the Harlem Arts Festival (HAF) hosted its third annual fundraising gala at MIST Harlem. The evening boasted a preview of some of the live talent to appear at this year’s festival, an inaugural award presentation, passed hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, silent auction and an all-night dance party. Almost 150 guests enjoyed the night, including HAF local artists and friends, along with community officials such as New York Councilwoman Inez Dickens, former Councilman Robert Jackson, Harlem CDC President, Curtis Archer, Community Board 11′s Diane Collier, Harlem Arts Alliance Chair Voza Rivers and art consultant Baraka Sele. 

HAF Executives Neal Ludevig, J.J. El-far and Chelsea Goding with Councilwoman Inez Dickens. Photo: Waseem Ghattas

HAF Executives Neal Ludevig, J.J. El-far and Chelsea Goding with Councilwoman Inez Dickens. Photo: Waseem Ghattas

Launched in 2012, The Harlem Arts Festival is an annual multi-disciplinary event taking place every June at the newly-renovated Richard Rogers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park. The two-day festival showcases local performing and visual artists that represent, inspire and invigorate the community of Harlem.

The HAF Community Impact Award, created in honor of Lynette Velasco

The HAF Community Impact Award, created in honor of Lynette Velasco. Photo: Leah Diaz

One of The Festival’s earliest and fiercest supporters was the late Lynette Velasco, former Chief of Staff to Councilwoman Dickens. Velasco was integral to making the Harlem Arts Festival a success; taking a chance on a new organization by providing counsel and guidance to the HAF team, all on her own time. To honor Ms. Velasco’s legacy, HAF created the Annual Community Impact Award to recognize outstanding individuals for their inspiration and commitment to the community. The award was introduced at this year’s gala and presented to Harlem Arts Alliance Executive Director, Linda Walton along with musician and social activist, Fred Ho.

In a touching tribute, Councilwoman Dickens was humbled by the award named for Velasco, who often spoke about the importance of arts in the community. “Lynette was the one who encouraged me to invest in this festival,” said Dickens. “To her, any organization that provided a venue for local Harlem artists to perform, was a no-brainer. And now, thanks to the Harlem Arts Festival’s Lynette Velasco Community Impact award, her name will live on forever.”

Harlem Arts Alliance's Linda Walton with her HAF Award. Photo: Waseem Ghattas

Harlem Arts Alliance’s Linda Walton with her HAF Award. Photo: Waseem Ghattas

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us turn our vision for the Harlem  Arts Festival into reality,” said Neal Ludevig, HAF’s Executive Director. “The money we raised at this year’s gala will go toward the festival’s production costs, park permits and artist stipends.”

The 2014 Harlem Arts Festival will take place on June 28th and 29th in the Richard Rodgers  Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. For more information, visit harlemartsfestival.com.