Nancy M. Haragan, founding executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, died on November 27, 2011, following complications from metastic melanoma. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Haragan was an iconoclastic cultural warrior who described herself as an “accidental arts administrator.”
A graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, IL, she arrived in Baltimore in 1974 and began her career in this city, which would quickly become her home, working as associate director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA). She then worked at the Greater Baltimore Committee, Chessie System, and then served as vice president in government affairs at USF&G for over 10 years.
In 1998, working with artists and arts administrators, Haragan launched the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA),an association of over 95 Baltimore-area arts organizations that serves as a convener, a resource and an advocate for the local arts and cultural community. Because of her exceptional entrepreneurial skills and technical prowess, she immediately created the BaltimoreFunGuide.com, an on-line calendar of events with weekly half-price tickets, a resource developed on two platforms—one explicitly for college students and one for the general public. Discovering a model project that debuted in Pennsylvania, Haragan contacted and worked directly with Pew Charitable Trust to bring the Maryland Cultural Data Project here. This system, implemented in 2007, is a web-based system that standardizes all financial information from arts organizations and builds a clear financial picture of the strength of arts sector. She advised the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund and was instrumental in the development of the Baker Artist Awards. This resulted in an award-winning web showcase of Baltimore metropolitan artists, which now features almost 700 area artists.
After ten years, Haragan stepped down as GBCA’s founding director, but remained active on multiple boards until her death. These included Arts Every Day, where she served as board chair; Maryland State Arts Council, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Art on Purpose, Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
Known for her signature red lipstick and her eclectic fashion sensibility, Haragan, a self-described newspaper and political junkie, read broadly and was interested in everything. She is survived by her long-time partner Gwen Davidson; her father and step-mother Mary Ann and Robert Haragan of Ft. Myers, FL; five siblings, James Haragan of Louisa, KY, Ellen Haragan of NYC, Christopher Haragan of Louisville, KY; and Mary Radway of Louisville, KY; and Robert Haragan, Jr, from Los Altos, CA; seven nieces and three nephews.
A celebration of Nancy Haragan’s life will be held at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Friday, December 2, 2011 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. In lieu of flowers, her family has indicated that donations in her memory can be made to the Nancy Haragan Memorial Fund at the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. GBCA’s address is 1800 N. Charles Street, Suite 810, Baltimore, MD 21201.