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Casita Maria Center
For Arts & Education
Fiesta 2015
October 13, 2015
The Plaza Hotel

Press Release:
Jonathan Marder + Company

Opposite Photo: Catherine Martin and William Ivey Long

Photo Credit: Credit: Sylvain Gaboury/ 

Veronica Pittman, Bob Pittman, Jacqueline Weld Drake, John Bernbach,
Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann

Jimmy Smits and Baz Luhrmann

Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education’s annual black tie “Fiesta 2015” honored John Bernbach, Baz Luhrmann, and Veronique and Bob Pittman, on Tuesday, October 13 at the Plaza Hotel, New York City. Jimmy Smits, presented the Gold Medal award to Baz Luhrmann, Stephen A. Schwarzman to John Bernbach, and a special presentation of the award was given to Veronique and Bob Pittman. As is their tradition, the gala co-chairs were Jacqueline Weld Drake, Aileen Mehle, and H. R. H. Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.

Honorary Chairs were Violaine Bernbach, France Chrétien Desmarais, Bertha Fonzalez and Mishele Wells, Nicole Kidman, John Leuizamo, and Sting and Trudie Styler. Pachanga Chairman were Carolina Alverez, Stephanie Bilet, Alexandre Levant, and Peter Levin.

Guests attending included Fabiola Arias, Coromoto Atencio, Peter Bacanovic, Candace and Rick Beinecke, Stephanie Bilet, Martha Bograd Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Brodsky, Amy Fine Collins, Robert Couturier, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Cullman Jr., Arlene Dahl, France Desmarais, Brian and Joanna Fisher, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Mai Hallingby, Marlene Hess, Michèle Gerber Klein, Margo Langenberg, Nina Lawrence, Mercedes Levin, Kamie Lightburn, William Ivey Long, Catherine Martin, Izhar Patkin, Liz and Jeff Peek, Peter and Judy Price, Ann Rapp, Susan and David Rockefeller, Ben Rodrigues-Cubenas, Patti Ruiz- Healy, Stephen and Christine Schwarzman, Hunt Slonem, Vernon and Naomi Taylor, Barbara and Donald Tober, Evelyn Tompkins, Jose Maria and Alexandra Trullols and Tanya and David Tisch.

Dinner Chairman, Jacqueline Weld Drake, opened the evening by saying, “Tonight we also salute our outgoing Director, Sarah Calderon, who is leaving us after seven years. At her arrival she presided over the opening of our new building. She has grown the organization, its staff, and our students. She’s also earned their love. On
behalf of all the board we wish her well and will miss her.”

Calderon, took the stage and wore a dress painted by TatsCru - a famous Bronx graffiti crew. “The idea for a graffiti dress,” Calderon explained “was inspired by our high school youth, who, as part of their ArtWorks Internship this summer, were charged with creating a dress for me for the gala.”

The Gold Medal award given to Baz Luhrmann, was presented by actor Jimmy Smits, “the relationship between actors and great directors is a very special one. Baz Luhrmann, the next award recipient is the director of such films as "The Great Gatsby." We are currently working on a series about the Bronx for Netflix. The series shows the Bronx’s vibrant tapestry of artists and survival, bringing attention to the brilliant mosaic of life there, the very neighborhood of the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education. I am very proud to present this Gold Metal award to my friend and my director Baz Lurhmann, who has a heart of a gold.”

Centerpieces were custom designed iron branch candelabras, which were entwined in an Italian ruskus vine dotted with bright colored flowers filling in the base and climbing up the branches. The menu included an appetizer of zaatar cured salmon- radish and turnip carpaccio; an entrée, of roasted filet mignon-broccoli rabe, tumbelina carrots, butternut squash and apple risotto; and a for dessert chocolate cremeux, malted milk chocolate custard,beet devil’s food cake, and chocolate pretzel crunch.
Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education’s annual benefit is an elegant and fun evening that began with cocktails, followed by dinner, music and dance. Past honorees have included outstanding personalities such as Santiago Calatrava, Roberto Cavalli, Patricia Cisneros, John Demsey, France Desmarais, Marta and Placido Domingo, Emilia and J. Pepe Fanjul, Carlos Fuentes, Audrey Gruss, Agnes Gund, Audrey Hepburn, Carolina Herrera, Julio Iglesias, Hilda Ochoa- Brillembourg, Eddie Palmieri, Rodman C. Rockefeller, Daisy Soros, and Lynn Wyatt.

The mission of Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities.


The mission of the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities. Casita Maria was founded in 1934 by Claire and Elizabeth Sullivan, two schoolteachers, in the living room of their apartment. Their goal was to give the children of recently arrived Latino families the support they needed to meet the challenges of a new language and a novel school system. The hope was that the young would thrive in their new homeland and lead their parents and their community to full participation in the American Dream. By developing innovative responses and programs as issues arose, relocating to the South Bronx as its community moved around the city, Casita has been able to
effectively serve each new generation. By 1961, Casita was offering programs and essential services to thousands of New Yorkers. Even when the Bronx “burned” in the 1970's, Casita remained a safe haven and a gateway to opportunity. Today, Casita Maria is an institution, a driving force for scholastic enrichment through its vital after school and educational programs that focus on the arts and technology.

For more information see:

Casita Maria’s board members include:

Chairman: Jacqueline Weld Drake, Vice Chairman: Benigno Rodriguez-Cubeñas, Treasurer: Gautam Patel, Secretary: Michèle Gerber Klein, Trustees: Nancy Barry, John L. Bernbach, Martha Bograd, Mario Buccellati, II, Ambassador Paul L. Cejas, Diane E. Finnerty, Miguel A. Fuentes, Jr., Alexandre Leviant, Rebecca Y. Mai, Alberto Mariaca, Alberto Mejia, Thomas C. Quick, Violy McCausland-Seve, Saundra Whitney, and Michael L. Ziegler, Esq.

Chairman’s Council: Daniel Brodsky, Anne Eisenhower Flöttl, Wolfgang K. Flöttl, Sergio Millerman, Lewis S. Ranieri, and Pilar Crespi Robert














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