This weekend, actor and photographer Lance Gross was surprised with a star-studded birthday party by his wife, Rebecca Gross. “I’ve been thinking about it all year with it being such a big birthday and coming off of the heels of 2020, a super COVID-restricted time,” Rebecca tells ESSENCE exclusively. “I didn’t really hone in on what I wanted to do until soon before we left for Nairobi in June.”

When finally conceptualizing how to celebrate her hubby, she immediately turned to crafting a celebration centered on something Lance loves most: art. “Lance has appreciated art for as long as I’ve known him,” Rebecca continues. “He has definitely taught me a thing or two when it comes to the art world. He is a true collector and I see how he is inspired daily by the art itself and also the stories behind the pieces and the people.” 

That said, Rebecca enlisted the expertise of art curator AJ Girard who engineered a collection based off of the beauty of growing up Black. “I wanted to respect his new standing in life and find art and artist that translated various ways of growing up Black,” he says. “The joy, the angst and the power of finding yourself in culture,” he says. With event planner Taylor Reynolds at the helm of making these ideas come to life, The Art Of Forty was born.

Ahead, check out original pieces from artists such as Serge Clottey, Adrian Armstrong, Devin Mercadel, Randy Perez, Brittany Tucker, Yung Jake and more, standout fashion moments and guests sipping on cocktails complements of Brown Sugar Bourbon — all captured by photographers Jennifer Johnson and Yasmin Antonio.

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