When Lady Gaga sang Woody Guthrie’s song at the 2017 Super Bowl many wondered if she had been appealing to America’s national spirit by performing one of the most patriotic anthems or if she chose it because of its critical subtext. Robert Santelli who wrote a book about the song found, in an interview with Billboard magazine, that it is one of the few songs that has “a multitude of meanings” and he pointed out that democracy, equally, has a multitude of meanings for different people. Patriotism and criticizing where America needs improvement are contained in the song about our land.
We all can use the occasional reminder of what’s going right and where we can lend a hand to make our land, our city, our community a better place. Especially these days. There are people, there are organizations whose mission it is to do just that - to make a positive difference. On April 6 the League Education and Treatment Center (LETC) will host a benefit, auction, and exhibition, which give us all an opportunity to contribute to a good - no, a very good cause. If you haven’t heard of LETC yet this can be fixed: It is the premier agency for the evaluation, treatment and education of children and adults with psychiatric and developmental disabilities, treating over 500 at-risk and underserved individuals from all parts of Greater New York. There.
What’s more: The April 6 event will benefit LETC’s League Artists Natural Design. If you take the acronym you know how the title was chosen: LAND. But behind all the play with words is an appeal to support a serious mission, namely to provide motivation, mentorship, and creative problem-solving for adult artists with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. It’s an organization worthy of our support because it makes our community a better place. After all the evening celebrates the accomplishments of LAND Studio & Gallery.
Located in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, LAND provides the right environment for these artists to develop their skills. They are encouraged to work independently with the materials and subjects of their choosing. Staff act as community liaisons and promote collaborations, forging links for the artists to work with painters, sculptors, animators, designers, and other who value creative collaboration. LAND strives to market the artists’ work to the widest audience possible in an inclusive and inventive way, helping to develop each artist’s portfolio and build relationships with collectors. Everybody is invited to enjoy the art exhibited at LAND Gallery. Currently on view is “Storytellers,” a selection of works by artists who reimagined and reinvented the essential practice of telling stories through visual art. Each work represents “aspects of a complex personal narrative, glimpses into alternate realities created with diverse materials and processes.” Running through April 19 this impressive show is well worth your visit. LAND artists are regularly presented at the Outsider Art Fair (the New York edition takes place every January).
Last September my Huffington Post colleague Priscilla Frank wrote movingly and precisely that LAND approached its artists “with seriousness and generosity.” Matthew Bede Murphy, LAND’s co-founder and curator, who works with Sophia Cosmadopoulos, its coordinator, said that what happened at the studio was “art first, people first.” He continued that “art is therapeutic in nature and the process of making work in a community setting can both empower our artists and foster identity - it’s a natural spillover.” Both will be deservedly recognized, alongside award-winning journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker, during the April 6 benefit. In a milestone publication Donvan and Zucker wrote “In a Different Key-The Story of Autism,” arguably the definitive history of autism.
The indefatigable Marina Kovalyov, dynamic founder and president of the Russian American Foundation, is a strong supporter of LETC and LAND. Well-respected beyond New York’s philanthropic and business circles she has been a social connector and she brought together kindred spirits together for the April 6 benefit. The three honorees not only share a deep commitment to the arts, artists, community, and charity but also their admiration of Marina Kovalyov.
Honoree Sonya Bekkerman, is one of the foremost experts of Russian art and co-founder and CEO of TONDOART. Through her work she helps to connect promising artists with collectors, which enables them to continue to push boundaries. Bekkerman has distinguished herself through her dedicated service to the community. Eugene Lemay, the second honoree is an artist who in his artistic practice wrestles with the need to see and recognize each other as human beings, is President of the game-changing arts center Mana Contemporary. Yigal Ozeri, the third honoree is Mana’s Art Advisor and a pre-eminent photorealist painter. Both Lemay and Ozeri embody the deeply humanistic and empowering vision of the synergetic relationship of art, artist, community, and mentorship. These are the values of both Mana Contemporary and LAND. Giving artists the best environment will make them thrive. LAND levels the playing field to share their art.
If you went to the fairs during the Armory Show week you love art in New York. And if you love art you love artists. And if you love artists you will love an organization that is dedicated to giving artists with developmental disabilities an opportunity and platform to express their creativity and to be recognized as talented artists. That’s LAND. April 6. Be there.
This LAND is Your LAND, this LAND is My LAND.