The Creative Coalition hosts an annual gala and red carpet after a day of lobbying for support of the National Endowment for the Arts on Capitol Hill.
Hannah Gaber, USA TODAY
The Creative Coalition hosted its annual #RightToBearArts gala and fashion show in Washington, D.C., Thursday, where celebrities, artists and politicians gathered to show their support for the arts.
The gala was co-hosted by USA TODAY and oncology company Novocure and brought out Hollywood advocates such as Steve Howey (“Shameless”), Caterina Scorsone (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”).
After a full day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, the celebrity delegation arrived at the gala, escorted by local community artists who have brain cancer.
Although the event brought out some of Hollywood’s A-listers, the spotlight was on the artists, who are living with a rare form of brain cancer called glioblastoma — the same cancer that killed John McCain last year.
Chief Commercial Officer of Novocure, Pritesh Shah, spoke at the gala about how the arts serve as a form of therapy for brain cancer patients.
“While our treatment impacts our patients’ physical health, we also realize that mental health is also vitally important when coping with such a devastating diagnosis,” said Shah. “Each person finds a different outlet for expression … for many that might be some form of arts.”
More: What is glioblastoma?
CCH Pounder (“NCIS: New Orleans”), Ethan Cutkosky (“Shameless”), Harry Hamlin (“Mad Men”) and other stars escorted the artists on the red carpet and shared why funding for the arts was necessary. Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) and Scorsone both expressed their surprise with the positive feedback they received from Congress on funding the National Endowment for the Arts because there usually seems to be disagreement on the Hill..
“I think many people who don’t live here in Washington, D.C., really are seeing this polarized country right now, but actually being here and talking to people you saw that there was a lot of camaraderie and a lot of understanding across the aisle,” Scorsone says. “Something like the arts I think there’s so much agreement that it benefits our whole society.”
President Donald Trump has tried eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts the last two years as part of his federal budget request, which Congress has rejected. But he’s trying to do so again.
Robin Bronk, the CEO of the Creative Coalition, points to the efforts of both the organization and other arts advocates for convincing Congress to block the cuts and noted Congress approved funding increases for the NEA the last two years.
“It’s not a red issue, it’s not a blue issue, it’s a citizenship issue,” Bronk said. Bronk wants both lawmakers and the nation to know that “the efficacy of the arts cannot be understated.”
The celebrity delegation said they found overwhelming support on Capitol Hill for funding the arts, regardless of party affiliation.
“Even though we have a lot of allies on the Hill, on both sides of the aisle, we need to remind them why we’re here and what we fight for,” Daly said.
The evening’s dinner and fashion show were hosted by Scorsone and her former “Private Practice” castmate, Daly.
Daly said support and funding for the NEA are needed now more than ever because of how the arts affect everyone regardless of background.
“The arts are the most powerful and effective change agent known to mankind,” Daly said. “They are the custodians and emissaries of our culture. They reflect back to us who we are, for better or for worse. They challenge our assumptions, and they inspire our imagination. They are the common language of our humanity.”
The “Madam Secretary” star shared an intimate moment of how the arts saved his life. Daly opened up about how he was an alcoholic in his teenage years and drank to the point of blacking out.
“The only thing that kept me on track was the theater,” said Daly. “I got the idea that being in the theater was something that you didn’t mess with. It was our temple. It was our place of worship.”
The evening concluded with a fashion show, where local artists fiercely walked the runway and modeled designer outfits along with their Optune gear, a wearable, portable device that’s designed to help treat cancer.. The artists were escorted down the catwalk by celebrity delegates, and as each made their way down, Scorsone and Daly read their personal stories ranging from computer architects to police officers.
Some of the artists there had been involved in their local community theater or just enjoyed painting during their free time. Some, like Osmand Nicholas plays guitar for his home church.
Nicholas opened the gala with a guitar solo. As he strutted down the catwalk, gala attendees learned that he was a police officer from California who had been diagnosed with glioblastoma. Following his diagnosis, he married his girlfriend and the two welcomed a baby girl.
Contributing: David Oliver
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