Ralph Burgard, a leader in the movement to create
arts programs in communities around the country, died on July 3 at his
home in Duxbury, Mass. He was 81.
The cause was cancer, his wife, the former Marjorie Martin, said.
From 1965 to 1970 Mr. Burgard was the first director of the Arts
Councils of America, an organization (now known as Americans for the
Arts) that brings together private groups, government agencies,
educators and donors to build local cultural programs. The organization
currently has a membership of more than 5,000 groups and individuals.
While director of Arts Councils of America, Mr. Burgard wrote "Arts in
the City" (1968), a book in which he argued that decentralized, local
cultural institutions "rooted in local history and traditions" could
transform not just towns and cities, but also neighborhoods in large
"I've always believed that the arts are the antennae of the human race," Mr. Burgard wrote.
Two years after publishing the book he started Burgard Associates, a
planning company that helped develop arts programs in several cities,
including Charlotte, N.C., and Santa Cruz, Calif.
Concerned about the lack of arts education for children in poor
communities, Mr. Burgard started the A+ Schools Program in 1988. Its
comprehensive arts curriculum is now offered to 18,000 students in 42
public schools in North Carolina.
Ralph Waite Burgard was born in Buffalo on June 22, 1927. He graduated
from Dartmouth College in 1949. Three years later he was named manager
of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, in Providence. In 1955 he became
director of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem, N.C., the nation's first
local arts council. Then, from 1957 to 1965, he was director of the St.
Paul Council of Arts and Sciences, in Minnesota.
Mr. Burgard's first two marriages ended in divorce. Besides his wife,
Marjorie, he is survived by a brother, Edward, of Kimberling City, Mo.;
two sons, Christopher, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., and Timothy, of San
Francisco; a daughter, Nadia Fonstein of Brooklyn; four step-children,
Russell Burbridge, William Burbridge and Dianne Brown, all of Beaufort,
N.C., and Richard Burbridge of Hingham, Mass.; and five grandchildren.
By Dennis Hevesi
For The New York Times