Happy Birthday, Pearl Bailey - "Hidden Gems" Celebration

Born in Newport News on March 29, 1918, Pearl sang, performed, entertained and captivated her audiences throughout the world. An all-around entertainer with great success on television, film and the Broadway stage, and was a Tony and Emmy Award winner. We, here at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, created the programming of our 9th season around the theme “Hidden Gems – Imagination”, in honor of her 100th birthday. Throughout the season we have celebrated Ms. Bailey’s Centennial and her contributions to performing arts and humanitarian causes with imaginative experiences celebrating the performing arts, artists and the “Hidden Gems” of Newport News.

The Hidden Gems Dance Series is five nights of choreographed art, inspired by precious gems. Beginning in November of 2017, we kicked off the event with a night inspired by the ruby, choreographed by Dreams in Motion Dance Studio owners, Liza Infanzon-Smith and Janneice Haughton. The second night, Diamond, was held on January 19th and choreographed by Angela Myers-Brown. Most recently, the March 16th event was choreographed by Iris Goode-Middleton of the Goode Dance Project. As it was held during Pearl Bailey’s birthday month, the event was aptly inspired by the pearl. The final two events will be held on May 18th (Emerald) and July 20th (Sapphire) of 2018.

In celebration of Pearl’s birthday, we welcomed children from Doris Miller and the Pearl Bailey Library into our gallery to present their vision boards to the community. Following their presentations, we had Pearl 100 - a performance by actress, vocalist, and Pearl-impersonator, Nina Brewton. She spoke on Pearl’s life in a first-person portrayal, while performing some of her classic songs. Following the performance, we held a reception in the 2nd floor lobby where people could take pictures with Nina as Pearl and enjoy a delicious birthday cake.

The celebration continues with the “Hidden Gems Photography Exhibit”, featured in our Newport News Community Gallery throughout the month of April. The young and talented members of Point, Aim, & Shoot Photography Studio were assigned with the task of photographing “hidden gems” of Newport News in honor of the late Pearl Bailey. The gallery features images of the community, visions of nature, various performances, and more.