The Gibbes Museum of Art last week bestowed its 2014 James S. Gibbes Philanthropy Award on restaurant professional and civic activist Mickey Bakst.
Bakst, general manager of Charleston Grill and a driving force behind the Charleston Chefs Feed the Need program, has long been a supporter of the Gibbes, and has contributed his time, talents, connections and energy into making the annual Street Party one of the city's big shebangs.
"We are so grateful to have Mickey Bakst on our side," said Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack. "We have just wrapped up another successful Street Party, and couldn't have done it without his support."
Bakst's other philanthropic efforts include Chefs Across America in 2002, Benefit for Katrina in 2005, and Dine for Nine in 2007.
Chefs Across America followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Bakst hosted dinners in nine cities across the country with 40 of the nation's top culinary stars. Dine for Nine raised more than $500,000 for the families of firefighters who died in the Sofa Super Store fire.
When Crisis Ministries, the area's homeless shelter, had to close down its food service one day a week, Bakst stepped in, forming a coalition to provide meals the shelter and other soup kitchens needed. One day a week, every year, a different area restaurant takes over the meal service and feeds more than 400 people.
Thursday morning, Bakst presided over the graduation of 76 Teach the Need students, high school students considered "high risk." Teach the Need is an eight-week training course that prepared these young people for jobs in the restaurant business. Bakst not only collaborates with fellow professionals, he works to secure positions for his graduates at area restaurants.
Recently he bumped into one at Hall's Chophouse, and another at Wild Olive.
"It brings tears to my eyes, no joke," Bakst said.
The Gibbes, too, devotes a lot of energy to community outreach and instruction, teaching children the techniques and aesthetics of art, and that's why Bakst has a soft spot for the institution, he said, noting the well-documented correlation between art and success.
He said he loves his regular job at Charleston Grill, especially the interaction with colleagues, patrons and friends.
"I love what I do, but it never gives me the satisfaction that doing other stuff" - philanthropy - "does," he said.
At its recent annual meeting, the Gibbes Museum also announced two new board members, Cathy Jenrette and Dan Gallagher.
The museum will shut its doors in late summer and begin extensive renovations that will radically transform the space and help restore the original mission to be an active educational force in the community. The offices will move off site, exhibition space will expand on the upper floors, and the first floor will be remade to include a cafe, artist studios and classrooms and more.
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