The subdued, fluorescent-lit gymnasium of Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in New York was awash with color on Tuesday night for annual benefit, . Banners hanging in the space, decorative paint cans, splattered tablecloths, and the guests’ outfits all popped in a multi-hued jumble. This is the 18th year that Publicolor has hosted benefits to raise funds for its multiple programs, and the evening raised an impressive $1 million.
Founded in 1996 by Ruth Lande Shuman, Publicolor strives to counter inner-city public schools’ alarming dropout rate by engaging under-privileged, disconnected students with design-based initiatives and academic support. Notably, the nonprofit’s efforts surpass high school and continue to offer support, financial and emotional, through students' college years. The organization has attracted an astounding wait list of 40 schools wanting to participate, and with good reason. Of the 1,200 students who took part in the program in the last year, 100 percent stayed in school, as compared to 40 percent of their peers with comparable backgrounds.
The eloquence and enthusiasm of the young people working the program further proves its effectiveness. Encouraged by the students, everyone from young kids to wealthy benefactors picked up paintbrushes to personalize the tote bags, flocking to tables strewn with canvas. Just in case, Publicolor provided Tyvek suits for the sloppier painters to protect their party clothes.
Nineteen artists, designers, and architects donated silk-screened outlines to guide amateur painters. Recognizable faces included 's John Bricker, ’ Jonathan Marvel, ’s Tom Krizmanic, and industrial designer . Downstairs, a silent auction included even more designs from the likes of Jamie Drake of and Laura Bohn of . The highest bid at $550 was for Carlos Falchi’s tote bag.
Dinner commenced with a speech from Shuman: “The importance of design is incontrovertible to these youngsters. It teaches them to approach problems creatively, thinking outside the box and analytically. The lessons they learn through creative endeavors influence all aspects of their lives.” Creative Ambassador of and the evening’s emcee Simon Doonan then took the mic. Publicolor honored Michael Kaiser, president of the , , and Gary DeBode of for their generous contributions.