Francine Kelly, former executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts, died Sunday in Los Angeles at her daughter’s home. She was 77. Her death was confirmed on Monday by her daughter Ann Smith.
Ms. Kelly served as executive director of Featherstone from 2003 to 2010, presiding over a period of exciting growth for the organization by expanding programming and fundraising efforts. In 2010, her daughter Ann Smith succeeded her. Last summer, the mother-daughter team received the Creative Living Award given by the Permanent Endowment Fund in recognition of their work to promote the arts on Martha’s Vineyard. Ms. Kelly also received the Martha’s Vineyard Medal in 2011, given annually by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
“I never thought when I came here when I was 11 that I would be receiving this honor,” Ms. Kelly said at the museum’s event, referring to how she had first visited the Vineyard when she was 11 years old. She spoke of her work involving young people in Featherstone’s activities and of her numerous collaborations with various Island organizations, including the museum. “We even had a birthday party for Pete Seeger,” she added.
As a child, Ms. Kelly spent summers on the Vineyard and she retired to the Island in 2003. But watching from the sidelines was not her way. After seeing an advertisement for a position at Featherstone she immediately started working again.
A graduate of Oberlin College, she began her arts career as a docent at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and served on the boards of the Indianapolis Art Center, Young Audiences and Very Special Arts. For more than 20 years, she directed programs at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s museum. She later became the director of Community Initiatives, working to revitalize the museum’s neighborhood and partnering with its surrounding businesses.
In a celebration of her tenure at Featherstone and the passing of the baton to her daughter, Ms. Kelly was asked to note her proudest achievements at the organization. She answered: “That people know where Featherstone is and what it is . . . That I brought life to it . . . That it’s a viable organization.”
There will be a celebration of life later this summer at Featherstone. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to Featherstone Center for the Arts.