SUMMIT, NJ - The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, at their Annual Spring Gala April 2, will present Congressman Leonard Lance and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, of the band "The Roots," with separate, individual honors.
Lance will be acknowledged for his "advocacy of the arts both in the state of New Jersey and across the country," while Trotter will receive the “Art Changemaker Award.”
The Gala, a benefit for the Art Center, will feature a theme of  “A Night Under the Stars,” and will include a seated VIP dinner with Live Auction followed by an After Party with cocktails, dessert and Silent Auction. Lance and Trotter will be honored during the VIP dinner.
“We are excited to have Congressman Lance as our honoree,” says Melanie Cohn, Executive Director of the Art Center, “As a national arts advocate, I have seen first-hand the important leadership that Congressman Lance provides in the arts. As a co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, he is a national leader and reaches across the aisle in his support of the arts.”

The “Art Changemaker Award,” hails a New Jersey individual who represents how art can be a positive force for social good. Trotter, better known as Black Thought, is a rap artist and the lead singer/MC for the Philadelphia-based Hip-Hop group, "The Roots," which also serves as the house band for the “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Trotter has used his creative talent to support social issues including the AIDS epidemic; as well as progressive education and health care for impoverished women and children.

Coinciding with "A Night Under the Stars" is an early, VIP opening of a new exhibition in the Art Center’s Main and Strolling Galleries: Recharging the Image: Selections from the Mott-Warsh Collection. Featuring artworks by nationally-recognized artists including  Romare Bearden, Charles White, Carrie Mae Weems, Whitfield Lovell, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, as well as New Jersey artists Philemona Williamson and Nefertiti Goodman, this show examines how African-American artists have grappled with ways of representing personal, cultural and racial identity -- and how they have taken ownership of this process.

Proceeds from A Night Under the Stars will be used to fund the Art Center's contemporary art exhibitions as well as outreach initiatives, including arts enrichment for underserved children, seniors, and low income families. 

Tickets for the Gala are now on sale, with admission to the full event, which begins at 6 p.m. and includes cocktails, the VIP dinner and Live and Silent Auctions, priced at $500. Tickets can be purchased for just the After Party portion of the evening, starting at 8:30 p.m. and which features a Silent Art Auction offering contemporary art available for bid, are $60, $75 if purchased at the door.

The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is located at 68 Elm Street.