“There's a lot of people here that I'm looking around at,” said Mickalene Thomas, the artist and woman of honor at Pioneer Works’s sixth annual Village Fete on Saturday, April 27. “I thought I saw Jame Bond. So this is great!” (Her eyes didn’t deceive her, Pierce Brosnan a.k.a. Mr. James Bond was in the room, as were Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maxwell, Darren Aronofsky, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.) She continued: “This is an amazing honor to receive this award from my good friend Dustin [Yellin], who I’ve known for many years. I was sitting and thinking about the notion of community because we were talking about what Pioneer Works does here, building community through the arts and sciences to inspire the world. I was thinking about how we could additionally take that notion to our own separate worlds and build smaller communities so that when the world falls apart in some way, we would have fostered some type of foundation.”
Thomas, whose mixed-media works of women at leisure recall psychedelic édouard Manets, drew an impressive crowd to the Red Hook art center for an early spring supper. The invitation read 6 o’clock, which allowed guests to maximize daylight hours with a cocktail hour outside in Pioneer Works’s gravel pathed-garden. There, Thai-style dancers dazzled the crowd before everyone found their seats at dinner. Elegant skinny strips of tube lights ran down the center of tables in lieu of candles; overhead a dazzling, dangly light fixture subtly shifted colors from red to blue to soft yellow, bathing the cavernous space in a rotating color. Dinner was provided by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events and Don Julio Tequila cocktails circulated the room.
The Pioneer Works Village Fete is unlike most art fundraisers; firstly, it draws guests to Red Hook (a lesser-frequented Brooklyn neighboorhood) but also, because Pioneer Works and it’s magnanimous founder Dustin Yellin put on no airs. There’s no pretension at this gala, it’s all about the art and doing what we can do to ensure that Pioneer Works can continue to leave its doors open and free to the public. After an auction, led by Sotheby’s Michael Macaulay which included a work by Mr. Yellin himself, the musical performance began. Maxwell took to the stage for a set that didn’t so much close out the night, as keep it at a steady pace. Because, of course, there was more to come.
Come 9 pm, the after-party began, drawing in waves and waves of young art patrons interpreting the dress code of “illusion” and “transparency” in the most interesting of ways. Per years past, there are many attractions spattered throughout Pioneer Works’s labyrinthine three floors; a magician, a tarot card reader, a Bosco photobooth, a VR experience.
Throughout the night, the ever-jolly Yellin could be seen saying hello to all, even giving studio tours (his studio is located right next door). Mayor Bill de Blasio may preside over New York, but Yellin is undoubtedly the Mayor of Redhook.