Popular and Influential Arts Educator Franny Taft Dies

Featured Audio

Influential Northeast Ohio arts educator Frances Taft has died at the age of 95.  Better known as "Franny" to her friends and colleagues, Taft gave several generations of artists a firm grounding in art history.  She also helped area arts organizations grow into the future.

When Franny Taft and her husband, Seth, settled in Cleveland in 1948, Taft says her spouse advised her to get a job right away.  In a 2015 ideastream interview, she said it was for her own safety.

"Seth said I was a lot safer with a job than without one," she recalled.  "He said, 'You have a little too much energy to not have a job'".

Taft soon put that energy to work at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she began a six-decade career teaching art history.  Sculptor David Deming was a freshman when he first got to know Franny Taft in 1962.

"I always referred to Franny as a benevolent drill sergeant that you learned to love and respect," he says. "But, she worked you hard; she pushed you."

Deming would go on to head the Institute of Art for 12 years, thanks to an endorsement from Taft.  She was also an influential figure in the local cultural scene.   In addition to being a longtime trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Deming says Taft was a key consultant for many local arts organizations.

"She would be the kind of person that you would want to talk to, if you were starting something like that."

Taft won the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1995.  Plans are underway for the Cleveland Museum of Art to host a memorial service in July to celebrate Franny Taft's legacy.

Support Provided By