Scene Last Night: Bill Cosby, Peter Kraus Fete Harlem Art Group

Harlem School of the Arts
Bill Cosby admires a mother-and-child sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett on a mantel in Willie and Lana Woods' home. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

In the front parlor of the Harlem townhouse where Wes Anderson filmed “The Royal Tenenbaums,” kids performed in turquoise T-shirts.

“You are so beautiful to me,” sang the children of the Harlem School of the Arts choir, ages 6 to 10, before tweaking the lyrics: “Music is wonderful, to me.”

They were preaching to the choir last night at a party for the school’s new executive director, Yvette L. Campbell, and its new and growing board, led by Charles J. Hamilton Jr., a senior counsel at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP.

The event gathered about 50 guests in the townhouse, which is home to the family of private-equity executive Willie E. Woods, president of ICV Partners LLC, and art dealer Lana Woods.

Their guests included comedian Bill Cosby and Peter Kraus, chairman and chief executive of AllianceBernstein LP. Red Rooster catered the affair, serving short-rib sliders, cornbread with tomato chutney, and red velvet cupcakes.

The school, founded in 1964, was in dire financial straits a year ago and shut its doors. The hiatus lasted only three weeks. Private and government donors stepped in and took over, to clean up and relaunch.

This semester 600 students are enrolled. The 37,000-square-foot school building has space for 1,500.

“Our biggest challenge was morale,” Hamilton said in the Woods’s foyer.

Classes for Kids, Adults

Campbell, the new executive director, is a former dancer who created the Ailey Extension, a program of classes for the public that brings in $2 million in earned revenue for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Now she is entrenched in regular budgeting, new staffing, and the search for revenue. She plans to welcome preschool children in the morning and offer classes for adults in the evening.

Cosby got involved at the urging of one of the new board members, Mary Schmidt Campbell, the dean of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and not related to Yvette Campbell. The comedian said he’d personally vetted the new executive director.

“I took her up and down and all around,” Cosby said. He was satisfied only when he determined that Campbell “knows how to fire people.”

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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