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William Bartman, 58; Created Art Nonprofit

Times Staff Writer

William S. Bartman, founder of Art Resources Transfer, a nonprofit organization that publishes books featuring conversations between artists and makes them and other art books available free to libraries in underserved communities, has died. He was 58.

Bartman, a former Los Angeles stage and film director, died Sept. 15 of multiple organ failure at a hospital in Manhattan, said Yael Meridan Schori, president of the Art Resources Transfer board of directors.

Bartman, who required dialysis, had long-term health problems, including an HIV infection, she said.

Bartman, an art collector, founded the Art Resources Transfer in Los Angeles in 1987. He later moved it to New York City, where he opened a nonprofit bookstore-gallery in Chelsea in 1996. That facility operated until 2004.

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Over the years, the nonprofit group published 17 contemporary artist-interview books, which are sold in bookstores, museums and galleries around the country.

Through its Distribution to Underserved Communities Program, the group provides art books -- as well as videos and interactive materials on art and culture -- free to libraries and schools around the country.

Since its founding, the distribution program has donated more than 140,000 art books, videos and other materials to more than 2,400 libraries nationwide.

“There was nobody who was more of a cheerleader for the artist and for art than Bill was,” Schori told The Times on Thursday. “He would go through hoops to promote art and artists. He thought the world of them, and thought that art changes the world and basically touches us in ways that nothing else can do.”

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Schori said a story she heard at an Art Resources Transfer benefit in May made her “understand even more what Bill meant.”

An elementary schoolteacher from a poor area of upstate New York, who had obtained art books through the distribution program, told the gathering that she had established an “art corner” in her classroom. That, in turn, led to having her students create their own artwork.

The teacher said one student painting, by a 9-year-old boy, “was very dark and moving. I asked him, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘Well, my brother died.’ He would never say that in class.”

Schori praised Bartman for making art available and “having this outlet for people to express their feelings.”

The Chicago-born Bartman grew up in Los Angeles and earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1968.

At the West Coast Theater Co. in Los Angeles in the 1970s and early ‘80s, he produced and directed numerous productions.

He also founded an artist-in-the-schools program and a theater program at the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., which included the staging of an all-inmate production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Before launching the art group, Bartman also worked as an associate producer and second-unit director on a number of films, and he directed and co-wrote the 1982 movie “O’Hara’s Wife,” a comedy-drama starring Ed Asner, Mariette Hartley and Jodie Foster.

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He is survived by his mother, Norma Bartman; his brother, Thomas; and his sister, Barbara, all of Los Angeles.


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