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“Can we give it up for King Tut? He’s here tonight,” Daniel J. Watts proclaimed from the stage set up in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Broadway performer had just finished a tap dance number for the dinner crowd, and was shifting into hosting duties during the YoungArts Gala; Watts is a 2000 alumni of the arts organization that supports young artists ages 15 to 18.

“I needed [YoungArts] to feel confident in the steps I was taking, to college and be a music major, and even more confident to go to New York,” he said. “Because all of a sudden, I had a network of people like me who I could communicate with whenever I was feeling down.”

The arty crowd included 2018 Max Mara Visionary Award winner Emily Damasco, Casey Fremont and Klaus Biesenbach. The evening featured performances by more YoungArts alumni between dinner courses, paying tribute to YoungArts master teachers Joshua Bell, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Deavere Smith.

Naeem Khan, an honorary co-chair for the gala, has taught master classes for the program in Miami and New York.

“It’s mostly design, what inspires you, how do we go about coming up with the concepts or even ecologically sustainable fashion – all those kinds of things which relate to today, where we’re going,” he says. “It’s amazing how smart these kids are.” The designer is currently building a school in Miami, in collaboration with Design and Architecture Senior High. “Everything I learned was through being inspired by Warhol, or Martha Graham, or Noguchi — or people who are in my life, or my travels or with art, movies, music. I want that kind of an education in fashion, which is touch-feel,” he adds.

“We all have the same purpose,” Sarah Arison noted from the stage. “We want to empower the arts and artists to add meaning, beauty, and truth to the world.”

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