12-27-11: Remembering Nancy Haragan
You’ve never seen Nancy in a play. You’ve never seen her paintings displayed in a museum. You’ve never heard her sing an aria. But if you have gone to Center Stage or the Theater Project; if you’ve wandered through the Walters on a Saturday afternoon, or spent a quiet lunch hour at the Baltimore Museum of Art; if you’ve caught a concert at the Creative Alliance or the Meyerhoff, you’ve tasted the fruit of Nancy Haragan’s work. As the founding director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Nancy did more to strengthen arts organizations, and to connect them to each other and their audiences, than anyone has ever done. There are many talented people affiliated with our local arts organizations who will undoubtedly leave their mark on their particular institutions, but Nancy’s legacy encompasses ALL of our important arts organizations and many individual artists, whose work has been advanced by her tenacious and inspired advocacy.
With Fred Lazarus from the MD Institute College of Art and a handful of other arts leaders, Nancy started the Cultural Alliance on a simple premise: The arts matter. Artists matter. And, if we communicated regularly with each other and shared our ideas, we could matter more. And if we mattered more, the Baltimore region would be a better place to live. Before GBCA existed, those of us running arts organizations were somewhat siloed, toiling away with good intentions, and very little connection to others who were doing the same kind of work, and the people who wanted to encourage them. Nancy changed all of that. She showed us that institutions large and small have much to teach each other, and that working as partners, we could make a strong and compelling case for the importance of the arts to the social and economic vitality of our region. Nancy invited everybody to the table, and she insisted that the table include everybody, from the organizations that measured their resources in millions of dollars to those who measured theirs in hundreds. The Baltimore Fun Guide, a website that offers discounted tickets, the Baker Artist Awards, which shine a bright spotlight on the enormous local pool of creative artists, the Cultural Data Project, which helps accurately and thoroughly track the economic activity of artists. These are but a few of the initiatives that Nancy Haragan put into place.
And she did it with grace, an infectious, wide-eyed enthusiasm, and a cogent, nuanced understanding of how to make things work, how to bring people on board, and how to see things through. She was smart, indefatigable, and gracious. People coalesced around Nancy not just because her ideas were persuasive, but because she was the kind of person whose team you wanted to be on. As we engage with the arts here in Baltimore and beyond, whether it’s in a tiny gallery or the Lyric Theater, at a quiet poetry reading, or a bustling film festival, we should all be proud of the fact that the range of cultural activity in our community continues to increase and improve. And for that, in so many ways, with her imprint on so many artists and institutions, we have Nancy Haragan to thank.
–Tom Hall, Maryland Morning Arts and Culture Editor