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Kahn, But Not Forgotten

Take A Bow Hartford arts leader to bring down curtain

Hartford Courant Editorial

November 01, 2008

We'll miss the beret, the bow ties and the badinage. We'll miss the gentle insistence that the arts are vitally important to Hartford and deserve more coverage. We'll miss Ken Kahn.

Mr. Kahn recently announced that he will step down as executive director of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the largest independent arts council in New England, in June of next year.

Mr. Kahn, 66, has led the 38-year-old nonprofit organization for a decade, and a fine decade it has been. He made the case to corporate and individual contributors that the arts were worthy of their support, and they responded with record donations. Mr. Kahn almost doubled the size of the annual United Arts Campaign, the eighth-largest in the nation, to $4.3 million this year. He vastly increased workplace giving; 4,900 employees from 60 companies kicked in $1.3 million this year.

Having raised the money, Mr. Kahn spent it wisely. He understood that the arts audience also visits historic and cultural venues, and that all make the city stronger. So he brought the cultural groups under the arts council's umbrella.

He also walked the fine line between the major institutions, which have long dominated the city's arts scene, and the newer and smaller entities, supporting both with great enthusiasm.

We take particular note of Mr. Kahn's inspired attention to outdoor sculpture, a great Hartford tradition. Since 2001, the arts council under Mr. Kahn has commissioned more than two dozen pieces, in Bushnell Park, Riverfront Park, the Learning Corridor and other sites.

There isn't another city of its size in the country with an arts community as vibrant as Hartford's, and it's a great selling point for the region and its quality of life. But the arts are fragile, in need of constant nurture. Mr Kahn made this point well, and we will miss him.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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