It was with sadness and affection that I read of the death of Marcia O’Brien, a champion of the arts on Long Island for more than a decade [“Marcia O’Brien, 95, ‘Earth Mother’ for arts,” Obituaries, April 29].
Her term as director of the Nassau County Office of Cultural Development did not begin that way. As a reporter who covered the arts, I remember when critics sneered that she was a light opera singer whose primary qualification for the job was that she was the GOP campaign office manager. There were protests, and in response, at one point County Executive Fran Purcell threatened to bulldoze the Frick Estate that housed the office and the Nassau County Museum of Art.
Ultimately, the museum became an independent institution with its own board and fund-raising. But Marcia was smart, tough, brave and determined, and she really did have the best interests of all of the arts in mind. Within a few years, she was perhaps the best-known proponent of local cultural activities. Her tenacity, hard work and understanding of county politics won over most of the dissidents. By the end of her term, she was fighting a long rearguard campaign to maintain significant county funding for arts activities. But in the Marcia O’Brien years, the Nassau County Office of Cultural Development was a force to be reckoned with.
Peter W. Goodman,
Editor’s note: The writer is a former Newsday music critic.