Bronx Museum of the Arts celebrates 50 years, Borough President Gibson among gala’s honorees

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
The Bronx Museum of the Arts celebrated 50 years on Tuesday. The museum, located in the Concourse section, offers free or pay-what-you-wish admission.
Contributed photo

Tuesday was a golden celebration for the Bronx Museum of the Arts, which celebrated 50 years in the Concourse section amid ongoing plans for expansion that will include a restaurant, a boutique and enhanced public spaces.

At a hybrid gala at Guastavino’s in Midtown, Tuesday’s celebration centered on a “Our Stories–Our Voices” theme and the Museum’s core value that visibility is the primary tenet of social justice, while honoring three Bronx figures, including Bronx beep Vanessa Gibson with a Bronx Powerhouse Award.

“A little over fifty years ago, The Bronx Museum of the Arts was founded by trailblazing activities during a time of upheaval and instability in The Bronx, and in the ensuing years, the Museum along with the community experienced both great accomplishments and profound challenges,” said the museum’s Executive Director Klaudio Rodriguez. “The Museum has survived the difficult times of the 70s, the financial crises, 9/11, periods of social strife, the passing of a beloved director and leader, and now the global pandemic which has forever altered the world. While the road ahead is exciting and bright, we are poised, nimble, and ready to take on any challenges that come our way. Because the future is a shining beacon before us, and we are Bronx Strong.”

Gibson – the first female and first Black Bronx borough president — was able to secure $21 million in capital funding to support the upcoming renovation of a new multi-story entrance and lobby on the corner of Grand Concourse and 165th Street. The project will be led by award-winning architects MARVEL.

The renovation, the Museum says, will create a cohesive architectural whole and open up the Bronx Museum of the Arts, serving as an expansion of the sidewalk and offering multiple opportunities for art and public programming to be visible from the street. The Bronx Museum of the Arts’s gala is an annual fundraising effort, and this year, the gala raised $1.4 million which the museum says will ensure it continues to operate as a free admissions museum for its 100,000 visitors each year.

Bronx Museum of Arts
Bronx beep Vanessa Gibson shows her trademark drip at Bronx Museum 50th anniversary gala, pictured with the museum’s Executive Director Klaudio Rodriguez and NYC Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Laurie Cumbo. Photo courtesy Bronx Museum of Arts

The museum presents 6-12 exhibitions yearly featuring work by contemporary artists, serves more than 12,000 underserved youth annually provides access to arts education, and has provided more than 1,300 emerging artists with professional development training and opportunities.

“Vanessa Gibson decided to do what many people thought was impossible, and that was to run and become our borough president,” said Laurie Cumbo, commissioner of New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. “They tried to say she couldn’t do it, they tried to say she couldn’t raise the money, they tried to say a Black woman couldn’t do it, but she did it. Because Vanessa is one of the most intelligent people I’ve met in my life, and her intelligence is only matched by her work ethic. That is the hardest working woman in New York City, and she is my sister, and she is my friend, and she is going to take the Bronx to new heights.”

Derrick Adams, a renowned artist who centers his work around his Black identity, frequently referencing patterns, images and themes of Black culture in America, and designer-slash-social justice activist Henry R. Muñoz III were also honored with the Art & Social Justice Award and Trailblazer Award, respectively. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new Lt. Gov Antonio Delgado was also in attendance on Tuesday.

The evening included dine-around food and drink stations celebrating the diverse cuisine of the Bronx, and the Museum’s lauded live auction conducted by Joey Quigley of Christie’s and silent auction powered by Artsy, featuring works by event honoree Adams, Candida Alvarez, Donald Baechler, Katherine Bernhardt, Jessica Craig-Martin, Kim Gordon, Gordon Hall, Alfredo Jaar, Shantell Martin, Jamel Shabazz, Kiki Smith and Nancy Spero, to name a few.

The benefit continues on Friday with an auction sale of works by Derek Fordjour, Rashid Johnson and Angel Otero, which form part of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Auction.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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