Annette Kuhn, 67,whose combined career in government and the arts ranged from helping produce the first Central Park “Happenings” in the Lindsay Administration to her appointment as Executive Director of the New York City Arts Commission under Mayor Edward Koch, died of heart failure at home in her Tribeca loft on April 2.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1945, to Anton and Ruth Kuhn, Annette lost her father in World War Two before her birth. She spent her childhood and early teens in Heidleberg where five uncles (her father had ten siblings), her grandmother and mother had joined in a household that provided great warmth and support in the difficult post-war period. Her mother’s marriage to Donald Zangerle, an American technical writer, brought her first to Spain and then to Buffalo, New York where she graduated from Amherst High School. She then went to college at Hunter and obtained a Masters at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts.
Her first work for the city, under Parks Commissioner Thomas Hoving, later Director of the Metropolitan Museum, launched Annette’s impressive talents for bringing arts to public places while she nurtured lifelong friendships. Under then Deputy Parks Commissioner Mary Nichols, the two started a series of Central Park “Happenings” that both attracted enormous crowds and promoted a new vision for use of the city’s public spaces. From the Parks Department, she worked at the Village Voice, where Mary Nichols had become City Editor, writing both an Arts Column and a Parents Column which, characteristically, less encouraged parents to parent than to take their children to the exciting and varied arts events the city offered.
She was also the Curator of Art Properties at Columbia University and, after her tenure at the city Arts Commission, worked for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. She was also editor of “Women in Film: An International Guide” published by Fawcett in 1990 and co-editor of “The Women’s Companion to International Film” (University of California Press, 1994) and a contributing author to “Christ in the Council Hall,” the seminal study of imagery in the Ducal Palace in Venice.
Meanwhile, she maintained extensive close and friendships, here and in Europe, constantly introducing people not just to each other, but to the world as she saw it—interesting, provocative and essentially wondrous. Her many cousins remember magnificent visits of introduction to the United States as “among the best times in my life” and full of “so many new and exciting experiences.”
Her younger brother, Pablo, recalls her taking him and his sister on a 400 mile bike trip through Nova Scotia when he was 13. Typically, Annette’s sense of adventure worked wondrously. The three arrived in Halifax without one bike or place to stay, then got 3 bikes and Annette, every evening, found them a local farm or bed and breakfast where they could stay.
Survivors include her brother and sister Pablo and Natasha Zangerle, her niece Isabella and nephews Luke and Peter, her longtime companion Ted Bassett
and more than two dozen cousins.
A memorial service will be held in Sag Harbor, where she had a house for 20 years, on Sunday May 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at 290 Main Street.