Barbara Hunt McLanahan, who headed a variety of important New York arts institutions, has died of cancer-related causes, according to the city’s Children’s Museum of the Arts, where she served as executive director. She was 55.
William Floyd, the president of the CMA’s board, said in a statement, “Barbara was a remarkable leader, truly a force of nature: dynamic, brilliant, passionate and above all deeply devoted to her family, of which she considered CMA to be a part—and we, her. She has left an indelible mark that can be seen in every aspect of the museum.”
McLanahan’s decorated career included stints as the executive director of Artists Space (which she led from 2000 to 2006) and the Judd Foundation (2006–13), both in New York. Prior to leading those institutions, she had also overseen Visual AIDS, a New York–based organization dedicated to supporting HIV-positive artists, and she had worked at Camerawork Gallery + Darkroom in London.
“Barbara was a force of nature, an incredible spirit, and an important friend and mentor to many in our community,” Visual AIDS said in a statement. “During her years as executive director of Visual AIDS, she stewarded the legacy of the organization while propelling it into the future. She holds an important place in Visual AIDS’s history and in our hearts, and will be greatly missed.”
McLanahan had served as the CMA’s director since 2013. Under her tenure, the museum moved to a new space in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and celebrated its 30th anniversary. Her family has established the Barbara Hunt McLanahan Memorial Fund, which will support programs dedicated to children with disabilities at the museum.
Alongside her leadership roles, McLanahan served on the boards of a variety of institutions, including the Carmago Foundation in Cassis, France, and the African and Asian Visual Arts Archive. In 2006 she was named a Chevalier of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.