At the American Academy in Rome’s New York Gala, held on November 2, nearly three hundred guests gathered to celebrate the achievements of three outstanding individuals—the dancer, choreographer, and artistic director Bill T. Jones; the musical composer Ned Rorem (2003 Resident); and the historian Marina Rustow (2007 Fellow)—who have advanced the arts and humanities and demonstrate exceptional commitment to scholarship and creativity. Our generous donors raised more than $1 million to support the Academy’s programs during a very special evening. The gala, held for the second consecutive year at Cipriani 25 Broadway, was cochaired by Calvin Tsao (2010 Resident) and Slobodan Randjelović, both members of the Academy’s Board of Trustees. The architects Billie Tsien (2000 Resident) and Tod Williams (1983 Fellow) served as honorary cochairs.
Luminaries from the worlds of art, music, fashion, food, finance, and higher education enjoyed cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres followed by a seated dinner. After opening remarks by AAR President and CEO Mark Robbins (1997 Fellow) and Board Chair Cary Davis, guests were treated to a stirring performance of Rorem’s composition “From whence cometh song?” (1981), sung by mezzo soprano Devony Smith with piano by Danny Zelibor.
This presentation was the first of several highlights, including an unforgettable performance by Jones, who narrated spoken word from an excerpt of a new work while Shane Larson, Nayaa Opong, and Huiwang Zhang, all from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, danced individually, in pairings, and as a trio. Smith and Zelibor performed a second song by Rorem, “Early in the Morning” (1958). The evening ended with dancing and music from DJ Timo Weiland.
The gala featured a live auction of Experience Packages with the author and Christie’s Ambassador Lydia Fenet, as well as the screening of “A Fountain of Creativity for Americans in Rome,” a CBS Sunday Morning story that aired in July, featuring several 2022 Fellows describing their projects, their interdisciplinary collaborations, and the amazing setting on the Janiculum for their Rome Prize experience.
A professor at Princeton University, Marina Rustow is considered among the foremost experts of the history of religion, and especially of Judaism, and the medieval period. Her books include The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (2020) and Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (2008). Yaacob Dweck, a historian and Rustow’s colleague at Princeton, presented her medal to her.
Ned Rorem is among the most important and prolific living American composers. He has composed hundreds of works, from choral pieces to piano concertos to symphonies to operas. Rorem has also authored sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries that influenced the then-emerging gay liberation movement. The composer David Sanford spoke of these accomplishments, though his medal was bestowed in absentia. Rorem, who recently celebrated his ninety-ninth birthday, expressed his gratitude in a message read by Sanford.
Bill T. Jones is one of the most widely recognized figures in modern dance whose work has been recognized with a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, two Tony Awards (for Spring Awakening and Fela!), five Bessie Awards, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, and the National Medal of the Arts. He has choregraphed and performed around the world with his late partner, Arnie Zane, and established the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982, where he serves as artistic director. He is also the artistic director of New York Live Arts. Randjelovíc extolled accolades to Jones, shortly before his memorable performance.
The Academy extends a gracious thank you to everyone who supported this year’s New York Gala. Additional photographs of the event are available on patrickmcmullan.com. Please visit aarome.org/support in February for details about our next major fundraising event, the McKim Medal Gala, to be held at the Villa Aurelia in Rome in June 2023.