By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
5:17 PM EST, November 30, 2011
Nancy Marie Haragan, founding executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, died Sunday of metastatic melanoma at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The Canton resident was 60.
"Reflecting on all she's done for the arts community made me realize how transformative Nancy was. She was able to bring the arts community together in a collaborative effort and get them to sit around the same table," said Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and a longtime friend.
"She brought in new technology and helped find a voice for the arts in the city. Nancy really is irreplaceable," said Ms. Bolger.
"Nancy was a force of nature for the arts and cultural scene in Baltimore," said James A. Snead, a principal in Ziger/Snead, the Baltimore architectural firm, and a longtime friend.
"She was smart as hell; a real mover and shaker and never stood still," said Mr. Snead. "And she had a great sense of style."
Ms. Haragan, who was born and raised in Louisville, Ky., was heavily influenced by her mother, who awakened her to a world of civic responsibility, civil rights, faith and the cultural arts.
After graduating from Louisville's Sacred Heart Academy in 1969, she earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1973 from Dominican University in River Forest, Ill.
She came to Baltimore when she took a job as associate director of Citizens Planning and Housing Association, and then with the Greater Baltimore Committee.
After a stint with the Chessie System, she worked for more than a decade as vice president in government affairs at USF&G.
Ms. Haragan, who started working with artists and arts administrators, launched the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance in 1998, an association of more than 95 Baltimore-area arts organizations that served as a convener, a resource and an advocate for the local arts and cultural community.
Ms. Haragan settled the GBCA into the former Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad office building on West North Avenue, and immediately created BaltimoreFunguide.com, an online calendar of events with weekly half-price tickets, focused toward college students and the general public.
Through the GBCA, Ms. Haragan's efforts resulted in such citywide festivals as Vivat St. Petersburg in 2003 and the Tour de Clay in 2006. Working with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, she was able to get a grant of $1.25 million from the city, which culminated in the "Free Fall Baltimore" program, a month of free arts events.
In 2002, she helped create Dance Baltimore, a coalition of choreographers, teachers, performers and studio owners whose annual dance showcase is generally sold out.
Working with Philadelphia's Pew Charitable Trusts, Ms. Haragan established the Maryland Cultural Data Project in 2007. The Web-based system standardizes all financial information from arts organizations and builds a clear financial picture of the strength of the arts sector.
In a 2007 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Ms. Haragan, who managed an annual budget of $250,000, explained her enthusiasm in directing the GBCA and the broad range of accumulated knowledge she gained working with her earlier employers.
"I can use all of the information I've accumulated. I am interested in everything, and I read broadly," she explained. "I'm finally in a job where all of that comes into play."
It was also a goal of Ms. Haragan's organization to market and support the Baltimore cultural scene.
"Our job is to remind our citizens why we like living here and who makes the commitment to keep this a place where we want to live," she said in the 2007 interview.
"Everything came together with the GBCA, which allowed her to get ahead of the curve and ensured the importance of the arts," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.
"She always had the next idea and was a great convener. She could bring people to the table and move forward. Everyone wanted to do what she wanted to do. Everyone was willing to jump on board and make it work," he said.
Ms. Haragan stepped down 21/2 years ago from GBCA because of ill health.
At her death, she was board chair of Arts Every Day and was a board member of the Maryland State Arts Council, Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts, Art on Purpose, and Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
"She still remained fully active on multiple boards until about a month ago," said Gwen Davidson, her partner of 25 years, who is a partner and portfolio manager at Brown Advisory.
"Nancy was one incredible woman. The one thing about her was she had no baggage. She could work with all constituencies. She was our ecumenical leader," recalled Fred Lazarus, president of the Maryland Institute College of Art. "She was trusted by all of us and she was always fair and a straight-shooter."
Ms. Haragan and Ms. Davidson enjoyed spending time at River House, their second home on Virginia's Rappahannock River.
Ms. Haragan was an avid collector of paintings and sculpture. A world traveler, she also enjoyed golfing.
A celebration of Ms. Haragan's life will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the BMA, 10 Art Museum Drive.
In addition to Ms. Davidson, survivors include her father and stepmother, Robert and Mary Ann Haragan of Fort Myers, Fla.; three brothers, Robert Haragan Jr. of Los Altos, Calif., James Haragan of Louisa, Ky., and Christopher Haragan of Louisville; two sisters, Ellen Haragan of New York City and Mary Radway of Louisville; and numerous nieces and nephews.
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