Marilyn Moosnick, a community leader who was passionate about the arts and human rights, died unexpectedly Tuesday at her home in Lexington. She was 81.
Mrs. Moosnick became the first person to chair the Lexington Arts and Cultural Council (now LexArts) in 1972. She was instrumental in transforming an old YMCA building in Lexington into an arts center that became known as ArtsPlace. She helped found the Lexington Ballet Company and the Lexington Opera Society, and served on the boards of directors of Lexington Children's Theatre and the Living Arts and Science Center.
A member of the board of the Kentucky Arts Council for about 20 years — longer than anyone else — she was chairwoman of that board from about 1992 to 1996. In 1998, the state arts council honored her with its Milner Award, the most prestigious award given by the council.
Mrs. Moosnick also had been a member of the National Endowment for the Arts Expansion Arts Panel and a member of the board of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. In 2008, she received the Michael Newton Award from Americans for the Arts, the nation's leading non-profit organization for advancing the arts in America.
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"We've lost a very, very important contributor to everything in this community. She has just been the most ardent participant and will be missed by everyone who knew her," said Lexington businessman Warren Rosenthal, a close friend.
Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, said Mrs. Moosnick's death was a big loss, and not just to Kentucky's arts community. "She was a huge champion for the arts and artists in general," Meadows said.
Mrs. Moosnick was a native of Charlestown, Ind., and grew up in Lexington. She was the only child of George Kilgus, who worked for Kentucky Utilities, and Golda Lanz Kilgus, a homemaker.
Mrs. Moosnick, who received a degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky, once said her interest in the arts grew from her work as an education reporter for The Lexington Leader in the 1950s. She said that while covering the education beat she "saw all the great things people were doing with the youth orchestra and the children's theater."
She said that what kept her working on the arts were "the people and the dreams they have — the artists, the people behind the scenes. Their creative spirit makes me really believe they can make this world a more wonderful place."
Mrs. Moosnick had been a dancer while a student at UK. She particularly enjoyed modern dance, her daughter, Madeline Brownstein, said.
"Dance was her passion as far as the arts go," she said.
But Marilyn Moosnick also devoted her energy to many other causes.
In 1979, she and her husband, Dr. Franklin Moosnick, a prominent physician who died in January, were recipients of Humanitarian Awards from the Bluegrass Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Mrs. Moosnick had served on the board of directors of that organization, now called the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice. She also had been a trustee to the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
"This is a heartbreaking moment for us," said Debra Hensley, a member of the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice board. "Marilyn was one of the most flexible individuals I've ever known, always ready for the next stage of growth."
Hensley added: "She was bubbly and full of energy and could have a conversation with you about anything, and was genuinely interested in whatever was going on in your life."
Mrs. Moosnick also was active in the Central Kentucky Chapter of Hadassah, an organization dedicated to volunteerism and education, and had served on Hadassah's national board. And she was involved in the Central Kentucky Jewish Federation.
In 1984, she received one of the local YWCA's Women of Achievement Awards.
"She was just a unique person. She was an inspiration to me," said Simone Salomon, a longtime friend. "She was also just one of the most fun people I ever knew. She never seemed to age; she was just timeless ... I can't think of anybody I'd rather spend time with."
Years after she left The Lexington Leader, Mrs. Moosnick returned to journalism as producer and host of Bluegrass Personalities on WLEX-TV (Channel 18). She also was director of women's programming at the television station.
In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Moosnick and Dr. David Wekstein spearheaded the making of a documentary called And We Were There, which featured people with firsthand knowledge about the Holocaust.
"We wanted to present the experiences of neighbors who would explain in one way or another the Holocaust. We wanted to have it available to our children, to the whole community — to give them the truth as people actually saw it with their own eyes," Mrs. Moosnick said just before the documentary aired.
In addition to her daughter, Madeline Brownstein, who lives in Baltimore, Mrs. Moosnick is survived by three sons, Jeffrey Moosnick of Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, Gregory Moosnick of New York City and Ross Moosnick of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.
Services will be at noon Friday at Ohavay Zion Synagogue. Burial will be in Lexington Cemetery. W.R. Milward Mortuary — Broadway is handling arrangements.