By Michael Rogers
At a festive celebration on March 14, CalArts presented its annual REDCAT Award to one of the most influential artists of the past 25 years and to a Los Angeles couple who, together and in their separate professions, have had a significant impact on the arts, education, civic affairs, and numerous other areas.
CalArts presents the award each year to individuals who exemplify the generosity and talent that define and lead the evolution of contemporary culture, honoring both philanthropists and artists. At the ninth annual Gala supporting and held at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in downtown Los Angeles, the REDCAT Award was presented to Gabriel Orozco, the Mexican-born artist who has built an international career by creating visually poetic, intellectually-rigorous and often humorous work in a wide-range of media that challenges and engages viewers. The Frank Gehry-designed award was also presented to CalArts Trustee Jamie Lynton and her husband, Michael, CEO of Sony Entertainment, whose committed patronage of the arts and education has helped CalArts and many other organizations.
After the 180 guests were welcomed by REDCAT Executive Director Mark Murphy and Gallery Director and Curator Ruth Estévez, CalArts President Steven Lavine delivered introductory remarks in which he noted the many creative achievements made by CalArts faculty, students, and alumni over the past year. Along with CalArtians’ two Grammy awards, two Tony awards and one Oscar, Lavine singled out the accomplishments of REDCAT, the innovative arts venue founded by the Institute in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex.
“REDCAT is one of the brightest stars in the CalArts firmament,” Lavine said. “In the decade since its inauguration, REDCAT has built an international reputation for bringing a worldwide diversity of performing, media, and visual arts to Los Angeles audiences. REDCAT is not only bringing to Los Angeles great art from around the world. It tells us what the world is thinking about where we are right now.”
Like REDCAT’s eclectic programming, the Gala, which raised more than $800,000, a record amount, featured a wide-range of creative contributions, from the opening spirited parade through the lobby by the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Band, to the comedic banter of actress Lauren Weedman, who served as MC, to the soulful set performed by singer and songwriter Aimee Mann and her band, to the ceiling and table décor resembling origami and referencing Los Angeles’s artistic landscape created by the Los Angeles-based firm, Claret-Cup.
The main focus of the event was the award winners. And the longtime friendship between each presenter and the individual or couple being honored, made the evening special, as presenters shared personal stories and offered heartfelt tributes.
Presenting Orozco with his award, artist Gabriel Kuri, who first met Orozco 35 years ago when Orozco was a teenager and he was 9 years old, said that he had been inspired by his mentor’s fearlessness. He has “an appetite and conviction for taking risks,” Kuri said, noting how Orozco once exhibited a stick of a plant inside a small clay pot, displayed alongside oversized work by other international art stars for a London exhibition. “He’s always valued investing in the unknown. He’s not afraid to start from zero. He’s set a high bar for many of us, and he continues to raise it.”
In his acceptance speech, Orozco paid tribute to CalArts for educating many Mexican artists and by opening a window for them to the world of contemporary art. “CalArts has been so important for Mexico. It was one of the places where we could learn all the things that we didn’t have information about in Mexico. We didn’t travel too much, but there was a place called CalArts where we could go and learn everything. And it still is like that.”
During the Gala, co-chaired by CalArts Board Chair Tim Disney and his wife, Neda, by Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz, and by Ted Sarandos and the Hon. Nicole A. Avant, Lavine noted that CalArts was especially grateful to the Lyntons for their support over the years. “Jamie and Michael are great friends to CalArts and REDCAT and great advocates of education and the arts,” Lavine said. “And as a trustee of CalArts, Jamie is the kind of leader that every president of an institution dreams about. She’s smart, engaged, consistent, critical—where questioning and criticism is deserved—generous, ready to foster what is, and to take a chance on investing in what might be in the future.”
The Lyntons’ award was presented by actress Jane Kaczmarek, whose brother was Michael Lynton’s roommate in boarding school in New Hampshire. She said that since the Lyntons moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago, “Jamie has made and continues to make her mark as an intrepid fundraiser for political, nonprofit, and civic causes, and since joining the CalArts board in 2008, has dedicated herself to the school’s goals of nurturing creative excellence and critical reflection. And Michael, CEO of Sony Entertainment, responsible for movies, TV, music, and publishing worldwide, has a voracious appreciation for art and artists and has made it a priority to give back locally. They really passionately believe in the importance of art in people’s lives and in the importance of giving back.”
In accepting the REDCAT Award, Jamie Lynton said, “What the world is searching for right now is how to teach creativity. And CalArts has been able to capture that magic, that lightning, by bringing together the most amazing, talented faculty who are artists themselves and have them nurture passion. CalArts lights my hair on fire and I just love it. Thank you CalArts for what you do, for protecting artists to do what they do to make our lives richer and to make us more human. Go CalArts and go REDCAT.”
Added Michael Lynton, “Studying art often means looking backward. Making art is much more about the present and the future. It means taking risks, and it means living outside the boundaries of our society and it means being brave. And there is no better institution that I know of that is involved in this process and more devoted to it than CalArts, which is why it is so important to the two of us. It is unique in its class and it is a jewel of an institution that needs to be supported by all of us.”
CalArts’ REDCAT Gala was supported by a range of individuals, corporations and foundations that sponsored tables ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. Premier Sponsors were Ellis Jones and Heather Pulier, and Jamie and Michael Lynton. Investor Sponsors were Comcast-NBCUniversal, the Disney Family, Lockton Insurance Brokers, and co-chairs Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz. Benefactor Level Sponsors were The Herb Alpert Foundation, The Walt Disney Studios, Marianna and David Fisher, Marian Goodman Gallery, HBO, The Sharon D. Lund Foundation, NETFLIX, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Time Warner, Inc. Benefactor Partner Sponsors were Gagosian Gallery and Janet and Tom Unterman.