Thursday, January 04, 2007

Harold Bell dies

Harold Bell, the charismatic 92-year-old Gloucester patron of the arts, died New Year’s Day. Besides being the father of the city’s current mayor, running the Mighty Mac company, and helping found the Cape Ann Symphony, he served as president of the Cape Ann Historical Museum from 1970 to 2004. He was behind many of the Gloucester museum’s triumphs over the past three decades. He doubled membership, lead an expansion of the facility, guided operations, and shepherded in gifts of art by Lane, Stuart, Sloan, etc. But Bell was also blamed for the institution’s elitist clubby atmosphere, which sparked repeated efforts to create alternative historical museums in Gloucester, and being part of a leadership that drove off talented curators, which has resulted in unambitious shows in recent years despite the museum’s sterling collection of Cape Ann art and artifacts. Does his passing auger change for the institution? The board is filled with Bell’s people, including his hand-picked successor, Gloucester attorney John Cunningham. Don’t expect any great shakeup soon.


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