Patrick Heiniger with mentors Toni Morrison and Robert Wilson.

Rolex celebrated the first anniversary of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Monday with a gala at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center.

NEW YORK — Rolex celebrated the first anniversary of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Monday evening with a gala at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center.

This story first appeared in the November 12, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The event honored the five mentors and protégés of the first cycle of the program, which was just completed. Among the star guests who came out to party with the mentors and protégés were Salman Rushdie, Padma Lashki, Gina Gershon, Frances McDormand, Moby, Sofia Coppola and Zoe Cassavetes.

The initiative was launched last year to help emerging talents in dance, literature, music, theater arts and visual arts. Rolex teamed the protégés with renowned artists in their specific fields for one year and each received a stipend of $25,000.

“We are confident that the program will boost their potential to become tomorrow’s great artists and will make a meaningful contribution to the arts around the globe,” said Patrick Heiniger, chief executive officer of Rolex SA.

The first cycle’s mentors were Sir Colin Davis, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Barcelona conductor Josep Caballé-Domenech; William Forsythe, director of the Ballet Frankfurt, and Chinese dancer and choreographer Sang Jijia; novelist Toni Morrison and Australian novelist Julia Leigh; architect Álvaro Siza and Jordanian architect Sahel Al-Hiyari, and theater artist Robert Wilson and Argentine playwright, director and filmmaker Federico León.

“We perceived a void in funding artists…helping individuals whose talents did not match their opportunities,” said Rebecca Irvin, who heads the program, during a press conference prior to the gala. “All mentors have been extremely generous with their time.”

Geneva-based Rolex is no newcomer to such endeavors. The company also sponsors the Queen Elizabeth competition, which recognizes younger musicians, and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

At Monday’s gala, Heiniger announced the mentors for the 2004-2005 cycle: Sir Peter Hall for theater arts, David Hockney for visual arts, Mira Nair for film, Jessye Norman for music, Saburo Teshigawara for dance and Mario Vargas Llosa for literature. The protégés will be announced in May.

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