Diane Shamash Dies of Cancer at 51

by Art Fag City on September 1, 2006 Events

On August 13 2006 Diane Shamash, executive director and founder of Minetta Brook, died of cancer in her home.

Every once and a while you meet someone who is so talented they inspire cliché. Few of us will ever live up to the familiar grandiose words we throw at the average, much less innovators in the space of these columns but Diane Shamash is one of the rare exceptions to this rule. Shamash was the executive director and founder of Minetta Brook, a non profit organization that funds public art projects, exhibitions and publications. It was her vision and dedication that inspired such high profile projects as last year's collaboration with the Whitney to bring the Robert Smithson Floating Island To Travel Around Manhattan Island to life. She also spearheaded Riverrun, a 2002 joint project with the Whitney, to project films and videos on the Holland Tunnel by artists such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Richard Serra, Peter Hutton, and Colleen Mulrenan and the ongoing Watershed project, which involves ten artists that engage environmental, historical, and cultural legacies of the river and Hudson Valley Region.

Shamash brought great creativity and intellectual depth to the organization’s endeavors as well as an unusually high amount of ambition and energy. These words, as I suggested earlier sound like stock phrases I found by googling “good obituary”, but having worked with her on even just one occasion, I can unequivocally state that she embodied all of those things. For those who have not met her, I think it is useful to at least attempt to separate who she was, from what she did, if for no other reason than it gives people a fuller understanding of who she was.

For one thing, Diane Shamash was a very tiny person. She was five feet at most. She was also sharp, did not misspeak and had impeccable taste. Probably the greatest lost to donor culture is the fact that few understood the importance of fine catering as well as Shamash. May Minetta Brook carry on her legacy of creating public projects that bridge the gap between the public and contemporary artists, as well being sure that when octopus is served, it is never rubbery. Diane Shamash would require no less.

Via Minetta Brook: Contributions to Minetta Brook may be made in honor of Diane Shamash and in memory of her unique vision of the role of art and artists in cities and public spaces. Contact Minetta Brook at: info@minettabrook.org

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