At this time of the year, Charmaine Jefferson is under no allusion about what her job is.
“My job is to put my hands (deep) in your pocket and pull out something big.”
Although drolly humorous, Jefferson, who is executive director of the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Exposition Park, is quite serious. The-state supported cultural institution will host its eighth fundraiser Saturday and Sunday, “An Artful Evening at CAAM,” and the money collected provides approximately one-quarter of the museum’s annual budget.
In addition to allowing the museum to keep its admission as well as most of the workshops, lectures and performances it produces free, the funding generated by this annual event also underwrites the cost of the CAAM Young Docent program.
Jefferson said that program started out with five young people as a summer effort to employ high school students in the arts, and this year had 54 participants including a number who had graduated and come back.
Even though Jefferson is seeking big money at the gala, CAAM puts on a show well worth the sacrifice. This year the event, which will begin Saturday at 6 p.m., will honor three world-renowned individuals who live locally.
This year musician Herbie Hancock, dancer/choreographer Donald McKayle and artist Betye Saar will be the recipients of the first life-time achievement awards from CAAM.
“. . . It’s not about stars; its about the accomplishments of people you know and the people you don’t know,” explained Jefferson about how the honorees were selected. This year is about their tremendous achievements. And they are still active, working artists. None of them are resting on what they have done in the past. They are still creating today.”
This years’ program will feature a tribute to Hancock by the group Naturally 7, who use their voices to create sounds reminiscent of instruments in the tradition of Bobby McFerrin. McKayle’s muse will also create a special dance performance for him, and CAAM will honor Saar by purchasing one of her art works.
Jefferson said this year the gala weekend will be extended by the presentation of a full concert featuring Naturally 7 which will take place Sunday at 7 p.m. at the museum. Tickets are $40.
There is also an special undercurrent that is part of CAAM’s fundraiser this year.
“It’s also a friendraiser,” said the executive director, who added that she will use part of the evening to bring guests current about what the museum is doing. One of key tasks is positioning the institution to buy the rest of the Golden State Mutual Collection, once litigation between the state and the building’s new owner has been settled.
Jefferson estimates it would not take more than $100,000 to purchase the 121 unsold works still remaining in the collection (excluding the murals) and is hoping to cultivate the kind of friends at the fundraiser who can see the value in providing CAAM with the resources to make such a purchase.