Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres Talk Business of the Arts at NYC Benefit Gala

Honorees tout key to being as passionate about business as you are your craft

Actors Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres (Image: A. Akpe-Lewis)

There’s no business like show business. And no one knows that best than professionals whose bread and butter rely on knowing how to sustain their craft — and their livelihood.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with one Hollywood power couple who knows more than a thing or two about the business of show, actors Laurence J. Fishburne III and Gina Torres, on a night of celebration and support for creative expression at Harlem School of the Arts‘ fall benefit gala. The school, which boasts alumni including breakout Broadway star Condola Rashad and Apollo music master Ray Chew, honored Fishburne and Torres with the Visionary Artist Award Oct. 8 at the Lincoln Center in New York City.

Check out what they had to say about power of the arts and their advice for professionals making a living in the industry.

BlackEnterprise: Why  does support of the arts remain important, especially among minority youth and urban communities?

Gina Torres: It’s certainly been my experience that there is nothing like the arts that creates an outlet for young minds to get outside themselves and outside of whatever world they may find themselves in and to expand their horizons. It’s heartbreaking to knwo that these prog keep disappearing across our country—they’ve all but become extinct. It’s places like Harlem School of the Arts that create a safe place for children to expand their minds in a way that is safe and exciting.

Laurence Fishburne: In addition to that, I think I can speak for both of us and say that without the arts, our lives wouldn’t be what they are. We’re both a product of the New York City public school system. We both were accepted into the performing arts schools here. New York City was really our first stage.

Arts and culture are essential to cultivating human spirit and mind. There’s a great quote that says, ‘Life beats you down but art lifts you up,’ so I think that’s why it’s important.

What would be your advice for those who invest wholeheartedly in a career in the arts? What has worked for you to sustain your longstanding and successful careers?

Fishburne: Align yourself with businesspeople whose passion is truly business—have those kind of people on your team—so that you can concentrate on the arts and they can concentrate on the business. There really is a marriage between the two aspects. Artists should be free to focus on the show aspect, but we need businesspeople to help with practicalities of real life and business.

Torres: The arts and sciences and the math of it all aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It’s important to learn your business and how it works. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are as passionate about business as you are about the arts, but it’s also important to get passionate about your business because it is your livelihood. We are in an industry where fortunes are made and lost all too quickly because we’re not prepared. My last bid for the arts— in terms of it not being mutually exclusive— if you expose your children to music and to things like Shakespeare, it helps to develop the mind and makes math and the sciences easier to comprehend and understand.

See more photos from the event here.

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