An Evening With Foundation Rwanda

April 11, 2012 § 1 Comment


NEW YORK, N.Y. – By about 6 P.M. here the breeze stirring midtown’s ego-thick avenues had grown to a formidable chill. The summer air that prematurely crept north by mid-March had been challenged by resurgent winter temperatures for at least a week now, and on the evening of April 4th it was wind that was reckoning with spring’s already waylaid plans. 56th street was channeling blustery pockets into a steady stream, which spilled around the corners of Lexington and Madison, depositing ornery whorls as it went.

Rwanda, really any place in Africa, couldn’t have seemed more distant. But for the growing crowd gathered in the downstairs space of the nearby gallery and auction space of Bonhams, Rwanda, though out of sight, was not out of mind. All thanks to An Evening of Food & Fotos, which neatly tied more than 30 local eateries together with similarly generous photographers: there to donate to silent auction their unpublished photos of the class of musical icons usually seen on the cover of Rolling Stone.

David Burnett's previously unprinted shot of Morrison, taken at The Roundhouse London, 1968.

One could gaze upon a hypnotically overlaid, never-before printed image of Jim Morrison, sangrita-soused oysters in hand. (And one did.) But there were plenty of other images, of all sizes but similar stripes. (The selection itself was curated by David Friend and Aidan Sullivan, of Vanity Fair and Getty Images, respectively.) The food, meanwhile, was both bountiful and invariably superb. And though it didn’t broadcast it by name, An Evening of Food & Fotos also packaged an evening of music; jazz and freak-funk organist Marco Benevento tickled the ivories of an upright for most of the gathering, warping blues standards and contemporary indie rock through a gauntlet of pedals—achieving a mostly genial effect.

This was the third year for the event, begun here in New York in 2010 by Foundation Rwanda, a non-profit organization raising awareness and funds to educate the children born from the sexual crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide. Those who opted for the VIP ticket ($350) sponsored a year’s worth of schooling and supplies for a child with a single gesture. At one point Foundation co-founder Jules Shell made the evening’s only official address, recounting one Rwandan women’s harrowing story and articulating the charity’s proceeds were as much for the children as for their surviving mothers, who receive medical and psychological necessities as well as support for engaging with their local work force and generating income.

By all accounts the evening felt like a success; with even an hour left to spare there was increasingly spare elbow room. The donated comforts of the evening notwithstanding, the cause for this gathering never seemed buried: Hanging within the VIP-only room were large paintings and drawings done by children already benefitting from the charity—tangible posters of hope that were among the most meaningful donations of the fundraiser.

—M. Sean Ryan (4/11/12)

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