The Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education held its annual black-tie gala at the Plaza Hotel with cocktails in the ballroom beginning at 7:30 PM. This event is one of my favorites partly because it starts at a late hour so it doesn’t monopolize my afternoon and more importantly because it’s a lot of fun for a great cause.
|The ballroom – All photos Lieba Nesis|
Moreover, with the Spanish explosion in music taking hold this past year “The Bob Hardwick Sound” played Latino tunes exquisitely to a crowd that loves to dance.
|Sana Sabbagh, Jean Shafiroff, Christine Schwarzman, Joanna Fisher and Jacqueline Weld Drake|
There was no shortage of social luminaries including: Joanna and Brian Fisher, Barbara and Bruce Winston, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Christine Schwarzman, Barbara and Donald Tober, Wendy Federman, Margo Langenberg, Geoffrey Bradfield, Mark Gilbertson, Christopher Mason and so many others.
|Andrea Casanova, Hason Greene and Halim Bulos|
Tonight’s Fiesta Dinner Chairmen were Jacqueline Weld Drake and the elegant Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. Whenever I see Prince Dimitri I am tempted to bow or kiss a ring-he looks so regal and his lineage is otherworldly.
|Nicholas Genovese, Angela Chen and Famed Interior Designer Geoffrey Bradfield|
Casita Maria was started more than 80 years ago in the living room of two school teachers, Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, who wanted to help Puerto Rican children and families newly arriving in NYC.
|Peter Bacanovic and Jacqueline Weld Drake|
Its’ current mission is to empower youth and their families welcoming kids to the South Bronx at the age of six until 12th grade by providing family learning through the arts to over 1,000 children. 9,000 other students benefit from its communal programs and activities. Some of its illustrious alumni include Tito Puente, Grandmaster Flash, and Salsa Musician Benny Bonilla.
|Publicist Mark Gilbertson, Mary Elizabeth Snow and Joachim Bade|
Audrey Puente, Fox 5 News meteorologist and Tito’s daughter, was program host and she spoke movingly of the incredible impact the Center had on her father. This year proved especially challenging for the Latino community following the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and Casita Maria held a fundraiser to raise money for relief efforts and help families relocate.
|Rosaura Henkel and Pepita Serrano|
Tonight’s honorees were Rosaura Henkel, Elizabeth Peabody and Julia Salvi. Henkel who is a philanthropist and fundraiser for hospitals, and health organizations serving children and the indigent citizens of Mexico spoke in Spanish-at times like this I wish I was bilingual. Pepita Serrano presented her with the Gold Medal Award and thanked Donald Trump for bringing the Mexican community together and spurring their creativity.
|Christine Schwarzman in Jenny Packham at the silent auction|
Honoree Elizabeth Peabody whose statuesque elegance was noteworthy has been helping cancer patients with psychosocial issues for 25 years-a true heroine. Finally, Julia Salvi was given an award for bringing music and the arts to new audiences around the world through her husband’s harp manufacturing company by sponsoring harp music and formation and many other philanthropic activities. This is the year of the women with three women honorees and all the presenters women.
|Mary McFadden, Kathy Sloane and Emily Frick|
I would also like to recognize beautiful female designers Carolina Herrera and Mary McFadden who came out to celebrate. McFadden is ageless and wore one of her own timeless designs. She looks like a John Singer Sargent painting and she is an original.
|Pietro Cicognani and Designer Carolina Herrera|
Another elegant dynamo, Carolina Herrera, sat inconspicuously at a side table and enjoyed a lively conversation with her dinner companion.
|Ann Rapp and Roy Kean|
As the music began at 10:00 PM the crowd was dancing until midnight to the incredible live band Bob Hardwick who played Latino tunes with an expertise and enthusiasm that was exhilarating-and so starts the gala season in New York City.