2023 Spring Harlem School of the Arts Gala Kickoff

Yvonna Russell
4 min readApr 3, 2023
Mercedes Bograd Levin, Jackie Weld Drake, Timolin Cole-Augustus, Kathy Sloane and Dr. Karen Burke / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

Nat King Cole said, “I’m an interpreter of stories. When I perform it’s like sitting down at my piano and telling fairy stories. Jackie Weld Drake hosted a fabulous cocktail party to celebrate honorees the twin daughters of Nat King Cole, Casey Cole- Ray and Timolin Cole-Augustus and the upcoming 2023 Spring Harlem School of the Arts Gala. The soiree at the beloved Casita Maria chairwoman and philantrophist’s beautiful art laden residence in Manhattan was on Tuesday evening, March 28th.

Christopher Walling, Ted Taylor and James C. Horton / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

The cocktail party was well attended by Jackie Weld Drake‘s sisters Martha Bograd and Mercedes Bograd Levin, Marc Rosen (whose late wife Arleen Dahl knew Nat King Cole from her days at the Copacabana), the new executive director of Casita Maria, Felix Urrutia, the president of Harlem School for the Arts, James C Horton, as well as Steven Aronson, Cricket and Richard Burns, Dr. Karen Burke Goulandris, Susan Cheever, Anne Dexter-Jones, Terry Frankenberger, Patti Kim, Michele Gerber Klein, Helen Little, Yeou-Cheng Ma, Liane Pei, Kathy Sloane, Benny Tabatabi, Ted Taylor, and Christopher Walling.

Dr Karen Burke and Jackie Weld Drake PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

The twin sisters have created a fitting legacy to their father iconic legendary singer, pianist, and actor Nat King Cole and sister Grammy-winning recording artist, actress and songwriter Natalie Cole to provide equal access arts education for all children.

Steven Aronson, Timolin Cole-Augustus and Casey Cole-Ray / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

The ladies flew north from their homes in Palm Beach from a golf challenge fundraiser for the organization’s Summer Strings program a two week summer music camp. The Nat King Cole Generation Hope supports the child, the music instructor, and the school with music enrichment programs, mentorship and resources.

John Hare, Claire Hare and Patti Kim / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

After warm thanks to their hostess, Casey and Timolin Cole explained, “As the daughters of Nat King Cole and sisters of Natalie Cole, we were bestowed much more than the Cole name — the spirit and passion of two legendary entertainers; a father and daughter who cherished the privilege of bringing harmony to people through their music. Our hearts are full that on May 1, the esteemed Harlem School of the Arts will honor our father and sisters’ legacy in tandem with our dad’s namesake charity. On a special note, today marks the diamond anniversary of our parents, who would be celebrating 60 years. In both their memories, we encourage you to share love with the world today.”

Rex Niswander and Sonoko Niswander /PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

Newly minted HSA president James C. Horton was effusive in his praise of Casey Cole- Ray, Timeline Cole-Augustus and Jackie Weld Drake lauded the ladies for their advocate achievements in arts education for all children.

Anne Dexter Jones, Timolin Cole-Augustus, Casey Cole-Ray and James C. Horton

The Herb Albert Building home of HSA programs kept music, dance, theater, visual arts, design, and culture guided by world-class faculty and Master teachers programs going throughout the pandemic.

Yeou-Cheng Ma, Casey Cole-Ray, Jackie Weld Drake, Timolin Cole-Augustus and Marc Rosen/ PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

The 59 year old Harlem School of the Arts started by opera soprano and first African American woman on the MET board, Dorothy Maynor boasts serving over 5,000 children in the Harlem and Upper Manhattan community.

Robin Dubin Avram, Ted Taylor, Tiffany Dubin and Terry Frankenberger / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

Students who participate in HSA programs, more than 85% are African American or Latino and nearly 50% of students receive financial assistance, alumni include Lenny Kravitz, Giancarlo Esposito, Ray Chew, Yaya DeCosta, Harolyn Blackwell and Zazie Beetz.

Felix Urrutia, Hila Mina, Ynette Bruno / PHOTOS JARED SISKIN

The first big benefit in three years means get your fabulous cocktail attire ready for a blowout elegant celebration hosted by ABC talk show star Tamron Hall and James C. Horton. Honorees Phylicia Rashad, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, Charles J. Hamilton Jr., The Legacy of Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, American Girl and MetLife Foundation will be feted at the 2023 Spring Harlem School of the Arts Gala on the evening of May 1st at the landmark Plaza Hotel.

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Yvonna Russell

Writer. I cover the arts, good causes and style. Will work for coffee, wine and Manolo Blahniks.