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Legends of the Fall: Patti Smith, Marc Jacobs, and David Rockwell Headline Pratt Gala

“Godmother of Punk” Patti Smith didn’t go to Pratt. She didn’t have the money and, she says, she was “too erratic a student” to get past the admissions office. That didn’t stop her, however, from enthusiastically accepting an award from the art and design school Thursday night at the Pratt Legends 2009 gala (click for pics of the event).

“Godmother of Punk” Patti Smith didn’t go to Pratt. She didn’t have the money and, she says, she was “too erratic a student” to get past the admissions office. That didn’t stop her, however, from enthusiastically accepting an award from the art and design school Thursday night at the Pratt Legends 2009 gala (click for pics of the event).

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David Rockwell, Patti Smith, Marc Jacobs

Karim Rashid, Richard Meier, Stefan Sagmeister, and Carlos Zapata were among the artsy crowd sipping cocktails on the 49th floor of 7 World Trade Center–whose jaw-dropping views make it the city’s current glam party venue.

Smith, in her signature pegged jeans, white shirt, and jacket, joined fellow honorees fashion designer Marc Jacobs, clad in his favorite red tartan party kilt, and architect David Rockwell, decked out in a work-a-day blue shirt for the event, which raised $400,000 in scholarships for Pratt students.

Smith said her fondness for the school dated back to 1967, when she met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who was a Pratt student at the time. Mapplethorpe encouraged Smith in her art and even encouraged Pratt professors to critique her work. “I can’t remember their names,” she confessed. “We were a marginal crowd. But who I became came from being around students at Pratt, so I was touched by their world.”

Speaking to the many students in the crowd, she urged them to value their good fortune and knuckle down. “If I had been a good student, I would have loved to have had a real education. I’m proud to be part of the Pratt community even though I never went.”

After the dinner of short ribs and s’mores, Smith went on to demonstrate that creativity and drive can overcome early educational disadvantages by performing half a dozen songs, including her best known, “Because the Night.” Her World Trade Center gig was a rehearsal for a bigger stage: Two nights later, Smith reprised her act by performing the song for a slightly bigger crowd–with U2 for the 25th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert at Madison Square Garden.

About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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