Remembering Ron Feldman (1938–2022), Founding Board Member, Creative Capital

Photo: Peggy Kaplan/Ronald Feldman Gallery.
Photo: Peggy Kaplan/Ronald Feldman Gallery.

The Creative Capital community was saddened to learn about the passing of Ron Feldman in late December. The Co-Director of the pioneering Ronald Feldman Gallery, he supported countless visionary artists through his work and philanthropy. A founding member of Creative Capital’s Board of Directors, Feldman served from 1999-2019, and as the board secretary for six years. In 1993, he was appointed by President Clinton to the National Council on the Arts, where he served for five years.

Creative Capital shared fond memories of Ron in remembrance of his generosity with artists.

“I have so many great memories of Ron. I loved running down to the gallery to share our newest artist rosters with him almost before the selection panelists had left town. No one took more joy in learning about groundbreaking artists’ work than Ron. We would talk through each of the 40+ artists and their projects, and Ron’s delight in the artists’ compelling visions was palpable. He saw in each project the possibility of something transformative.

But my favorite story, which I still often tell, is the day we met. Arch Gillies, the President of the Warhol Foundation, had put Ron on the Creative Capital board, and I didn’t know him. Arch suggested that Ron and I have lunch. I wish I could remember what we talked about, but alas! What I do remember is that toward the end of our FOUR HOUR lunch (yes—I think it’s the longest lunch I have ever had!) our waiter came over and said, “So, how long have you two known each other?” We both laughed and said that it was the first time we had ever met. The waiter was in total disbelief, and said, “Wow, you sure are getting along well.”

That was Ron; there was always so much to say about so many things. We shared a love of art, and especially a love of artists, but also a love and deep concern about the country’s political life.

Most days I can’t believe he is gone. My heart is broken. There will never be anyone else in the world like him. I so treasured his wisdom and passion. I am inspired by him still.”

—Ruby Lerner, Founding Director (Retired), Creative Capital

“Ron Feldman was a gift. He was a gift to all of us. He was an ardent warrior for artists and their rights to create. We first worked together on supporting artists on the National Endowment for the Arts as President Clinton appointees to the National Council on the Arts. It was during the height of what was then referred to as the “culture wars,” and Ron was the greatest warrior of them all. As a result of our work for artists and the NEA, Ron was asked to be one of the founding board members of Creative Capital and he pressed me into service. Along with Ron, Jeffrey Soros and myself, we banded together to make a place for artists whose work was not served by the NEA.

Ron became a great advisor to the founding President and CEO of Creative Capital, Ruby Lerner. It was wonderful to be a part of shaping a future organization that continues to serve artists. Ron continued with his work at Creative Capital even as leadership changed from Ruby Lerner to Suzy Delvalle and became an emeritus Creative Capital board member in 2020 during Suzy’s tenure. He was an invaluable advisor to our board chairs Jeffrey Soros, Catherine Stimpson, Suzi Cordish, Lyda Kuth, Stephen Reily (with me as co-chair), Bill Foulkes and Annie Han.

The brilliance that Ron brought to the table was a deep understanding of artists and those that support artists. Ron had a passionate commitment to visual artists, exemplified in the gallery that he and Frayda founded, Ronald Feldman Gallery, and he also had insight and advice for all artists and especially those that were Creative Capital artists.

Ron and I would laugh, strategize and discuss politics, art and how we can make a difference in the world. I will miss and honor him and his deep commitment to artists and culture, and continuing the work is the legacy he has left with all of us.

Godspeed my friend, Ron.”

—Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Vice-Chair and Past Co-chair, Creative Capital

“I always felt that Ron held Creative Capital’s heart in his hands; if we had hard questions to answer, all we had to do was turn to Ron for the purest answer, one that kept us closest to our mission and impact. Ron’s light-hearted demeanor (which made him a delight to be with) never obscured his guiding passions, and he taught me that no one could support artists without being ready to fight for free expression, in all forms.”

—Stephen Reily, Past Board Co-Chair, Creative Capital

“Ron was one of the founding members of the Creative Capital board and embodied its spirit and principles. He believed in art and in artists, especially courageous and adventurous ones. He supported them. He wanted them to dwell in freedom. Yet, he never confused freedom with narcissistic self-indulgence and self-inflation. Freedom, like justice, was a necessary social good, which ought to be available to all. When I
first met him on the Creative Capital board, I sensed in him the toughness of a principled warrior who was also capable of great generosity and honesty. He was a superb, trustworthy ally in any shared cause, and he was a good companion over dinner or on a visit to his gallery. His wife Fraya was as fine and valuable a presence. He saw what the future might be like for the arts and artists. If we truly grieve him now, we will continue to build on that vision.”

—Catharine R. Stimpson, Co-Chair, National Advisory Council, Creative Capital

When Feldman retired in 2019, The New York Times wrote about his five-decade gallery career, quoting his eldest son Mark Feldman. “He is so passionate about championing ideas-based work, and advancing and creating platforms for artists that truly engage with the widest range of social issues and political causes in our world…He supported artists who were really groundbreaking and willing to take risks.”

“Ron spoke the language of art and believed in its power to convey timeless messages and spiritual truths,” read a statement from his gallery, “He was a champion of big ideas. In the span of 50 years, the Feldman Gallery exhibited the work of over 1,000 artists, providing powerful commentary on the societal issues of our time.”

Read more about Feldman’s life and legacy in The New York Times, Artforum, and the Ron Feldman Gallery. Tribute messages are being collected here.

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