Nancy Haragan, arts advocate

Nancy Marie Haragan, founding executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, died Nov. 27 of metastatic melanoma. 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." (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun 2007 / November 29, 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 the 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 Charitable Pew Trust, 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, with the broad range of accumulated knowledge 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.