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Mickalene Thomas Accepts Vanguard Award at Center Gala: ‘We All Have a Responsibility to Create Change’

Mickalene Thomas Center Gala

Award-winning visual artist Mickalene Thomas was honored with the Vanguard Award at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s annual Center Gala on Saturday night.

Thomas, considered one of the most influential visual artists of our time, was presented the award in recognition of her advocacy and commitment to intersecting complexities of Black and female identity within the Western canon. 

“As our community faces unprecedented challenges, we all have a responsibility to create change,” Thomas said. “Each and every one of us in the room has a responsibility in our own small ways—wherever you are, however we involve ourselves within the community. It takes one person to create change.”

Thomas’s work has been showcased at a number of major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the National Portrait Gallery. Her art will soon be the subject of an upcoming special exhibition at The Broad titled Mickalene Thomas: All About Love, and will be highlighted in the Center’s Pride Month celebrations this June.

As an artist, Thomas is known for her unapologetic focus on Black women, highlighting their authentic lived experience in a variety of media, ranging from collage to painting and photography.

“Mickalene and I come from the same place—Camden, New Jersey,” said actress Tasha Smith, presenting Thomas with the Vanguard Award on Saturday. “If you don’t know anything about Camden, I’ll say this: It is a place so deep in the rough that you will find the shiniest, most valuable of diamonds. Mickalene is one of those brilliant diamonds.”

Thomas was honored at the star-studded evening alongside Grammy-, Tony-, and Emmy-winning actress Cynthia Erivo, and the power pop trio MUNA, who dazzled the audience with a special performance of their songs “I Know a Place” and “Silk Chiffon.”

Comedian and Fire Island writer-star Joel Kim Booster served as the host of the evening, which raised more than $1.6 million in support of the Center’s live-saving programs and services.

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