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Barbara Hunt McLanahan. Photo: Visual AIDS.

Barbara Hunt McLanahan (1964–2019)

Barbara Hunt McLanahan, executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) and former director of Artists Space and the Judd Foundation, all in New York, has died at fifty-five years old.

McLanahan was born in Germany in 1964 and grew up in England. She studied visual and performance arts at the University of Kent; completed postgraduate studies at the University of Manchester; and worked at Camerawork Gallery & Darkroom in London before moving to New York in 1997 to join Visual AIDS, which she directed from 1997 to 2000. She went on to lead Artists Space from 2000 to 2006 and the Judd Foundation from 2006 to 2013. In 2013, McLanahan joined the CMA, where she was active until she stepped aside last month due to pancreatic cancer.

“She was always keen to bring people together,” Antoine Vigne, an arts writer and longtime friend, told the New York Times. “Be it in Venice or London or Paris, there were always contacts she would share, and ideas that would create links between institutions.”

In addition to her executive leadership positions, McLanahan served on the boards of the Carmago Foundation in France and the African and Asian Visual Arts Initiative in the UK. She was honored as a Chevalier of the French Ministry of Culture’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. A memorial fund in her name will support the CMA’s Arts for All Initiative supporting children with disabilities.  

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