Art Sanctuary formally held a “Passing the Baton: Launching Beyond Legacy” transition event on Friday Nov. 30 honoring the legacy of founder Lorene Cary, and looking toward the organization’s future under the leadership of new Executive Director Valerie V. Gay. The free-will offering fundraiser and community celebration brought together over 300 at The Pavilion at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Art Sanctuary is in its 14th year serving as one of the nation’s leading African-American arts and letters organizations devoted to presenting outstanding regional and national talent in the literary, visual and performing arts.
“It is exciting, and I am more excited for what our audience will receive,” said Gay. “We are looking to really deepen and widen the impact that Art Sanctuary already has. Every year, Art Sanctuary touches about 15,000 lives in this city, and we intend to do more of that. The work that we do is powerful; is life-impacting; is life-altering — which sounds dramatic in terms of art — but it really is. And the work that we do, we’re going to take it and scale it to larger levels for more people to be impacted, and to be touched.”
The theme of “Passing the Baton” was “honoring the past and looking to the future,” and Gay announced her first initiative will be the “Read With Me: The MLK Project.”
“We will take a piece of literature — Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter From A Birmingham Jail’ — arguably one of the most important documents from the Civil Rights era, but it’s one of the least read. So, we’re going to say to people, ‘Read it,’ but not just read it, find three young people and read it with them and discuss it. And then we want them to do something, to write their own letter to power and have some call of action: write a song, a poem or a blog or make a piece of art, and then tell us about it by linking to our website and being a part of the larger community.”
The evening featured performances by some of Art Sanctuary’s artistic family who have shared their talents with the organization over the years. The baton was represented in the form of two five-foot tall wood cane-like African percussive instruments that both Cary and Gay have utilized for the last couple of months during meetings.
Cary said, “I’ve cut the cord. One should step aside and get out of the way. So I don’t have a role. My role is to be the founder. You should know when to lead and you should know when to serve, so I’m at her service if she wants me, but I am not necessary.”
For more information about “Read With Me: The MLK Project,” visit artsanctuary.org/read-with-me/.