A night to remember: New 42’s gala celebrates the lifeblood of Times Square

Three people at Times Square gala event
Tom Murro, Avalon Ashley Bellos and Russell Granet
Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for New 42

This past Monday, the historic Plaza Hotel echoed with the vibrant energies of the New 42 annual gala, a celebration that not only illuminated the splendor of Times Square but also underscored the transformative power of the performing arts.

Themed “Celebrating Times Square: Every Corner Tells a Story,” this gala brought together luminaries from theatre, dance, and poetry to honor the intersection where art and community meet, reinforcing the cultural and economic dynamism that defines New York City.

Hosted by the illustrious Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell, the evening was a testament to the indomitable spirit of the arts. Mitchell’s charisma and passion set the tone for a night that recognized two titans of the cultural scene: the Times Square Alliance and its president, Tom Harris, as well as the visionary choreographer and founder of Rennie Harris Puremovement, Rennie Harris.

Their contributions have been pivotal in nurturing the artistic heartbeat of Times Square, ensuring that it remains a beacon of creativity and innovation.

The gala was not just a tribute; it was a vibrant showcase of talent and artistic expression.

Attendees were treated to a breathtaking array of performances that highlighted the diversity and richness of the performing arts. Salome Agbaroji, the 2023-2024 National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, captivated the audience with her evocative poetry, weaving words into a tapestry of youthful insight and profound emotion. Brynn Cartelli, winner of Season 14 of The Voice, delivered a musical performance that resonated with both power and grace.

Adding to the evening’s dynamism, the Ladies of Hip-Hop Dance Collective brought the raw, pulsating energy of hip-hop to the stage, while Broadway stars Aisha Jackson, Jacob Gutierrez, and Nic Rouleau showcased the unparalleled talent that defines New York’s theatre scene. These performances not only entertained but also embodied the essence of Times Square as a nexus of artistic innovation and performance.

The significance of this event extends beyond the evening’s festivities. Proceeds from “Celebrating Times Square: Every Corner Tells a Story” will bolster the groundbreaking programs of New 42 and New Victory, organizations dedicated to fostering artistic creativity and education among young people. These programs are crucial, providing access to the arts for youth, inspiring the next generation of artists, and cultivating an appreciation for the rich cultural tapestry of the performing arts.

In recognizing the pivotal role that exposure to the arts plays in the lives of young people, the gala emphasized a broader truth: the arts are not just a source of entertainment but a fundamental pillar of cultural identity and economic vitality. In a city like New York, where every corner indeed tells a story, the performing arts serve as both a mirror and a lens, reflecting the diverse narratives of its inhabitants and offering new perspectives through the power of storytelling and performance.

The gala at the Plaza Hotel was a resounding affirmation of the arts’ enduring importance, celebrating the unique vibrancy of Times Square and the boundless potential of artistic expression.

As the evening drew to a close, it left an indelible mark on all who attended, a reminder that the heart of New York City beats strongest in its dedication to the arts, a pulse that drives its cultural and economic heartbeat forward.