Remembering Harold Reed, advocate for the arts & Downtown

Harold Reed was active in the South Street Seaport community and a member of Community Board 1.  Photo courtesy of Bradford Reed
Harold Reed was active in the South Street Seaport community and a member of Community Board 1. Photo courtesy of Bradford Reed

BY JANEL BLADOW  |  Just before Christmas, I ran into my Water St. neighbor Harold Reed carrying a paper bag of assorted goodies from Fresh Daily. A smile glowed across his face. He was so happy that another of the shops destroyed by Hurricane Sandy had reopened in the neighborhood he (and I) love – the South Street Seaport.

I often saw him busily going about the cobbled or construction-filled streets, heading to a community meeting, a board meeting, an opening, a business lunch, another fabulous party or a smart gathering. He would fill me in with details, bring me up-to-date on important doings, tell me excitedly about a developing project to look into, or suggest that I meet someone he thought I should know. He would describe a trip he recently took to, say, India, or another he was planning to some other exotic locale, or remind me to save a date for his annual Holiday party or a summer party on his terrace.

So it was with great shock and sadness to hear that Harold Reed, 75, a true enthusiast for everything he enjoyed, passed away unexpectedly of complications from a previous surgery on Jan. 5, en route to Hong Kong to visit his son Bradford, a musician. A cremation ceremony was held there on Friday, Jan. 11, (Jan. 10 here), the same day he would have turned 76.

Reed was born in Newark, N.J., where he graduated from Weequahic High School before heading to Stanford University. He settled in New York City in the mid-1960s, beginning a colorful career first as a theatrical agent for MCA and later with the David Hocker Agency.

Early in the next decade as his interests grew to include contemporary art and he founded the Mobile Art Gallery – a specially redesigned station wagon he used to bring his art works to clients. Soon after, he opened the Harold Reed Gallery in a more permanent location on East 78th Street. He exhibited prominent artists such as Fernando Botero, Alex Katz, Alice Neel and the debut show of Hunt Slonem. He was a member of the Art Dealers Association of America.

Throughout this time, he continued his interest in the theater, as a producer. Among his credits are “Burn This”, “A Common Pursuit”, “Never the Sinner”, the first play by award-winning playwright Joshua Logan, based on the infamous 1924 murder trial of Leopold and Loeb.

For more than 20 years, Reed was a benefactor and volunteer with The Corporation of Yaddo, an artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He first served on the group’s President’s Council in the mid-90s, then was elected a member of the corporation 1997, and was an avid organizer of Yaddo’s annual New York City Benefit gala.

As a community leader, Reed became an active member of the Manhattan Community Board 1 in 2001. He was the chairperson of C.B. 1’s Arts & Entertainment Task Force and a strong advocate for several proposed projects: the W.T.C. Performing Arts Center, “Broadway: 1,000 Steps”, a public art project by Mary Miss, and Tom Otterness’s sculptures for the entrance of the Battery Park City Library.  He supported building a Performing Arts Center on Pier 17 when it is renovated to ensure year round activities.

Reed also strongly supported the South Street Seaport Museum, serving on the previous Board of Trustees and was expected to take a seat on the board again following its reorganization.

Susan Henshaw Jones, President of the South Street Seaport Museum, wrote in an email to Downtown Express: “Like everyone else, I was shocked to hear of Harold’s death — in an airplane on his way to visit his son. His good deeds were many Downtown, and he welcomed me as president of the South Street Seaport with a party at his apartment and followed that up with support and generosity. He had served as a trustee of the Seaport Museum, and, as anyone who had met him knows, he was unfailingly gracious and kind in all his dealings, always focused on making his community better. This is a real loss!”

C.B. 1 District Manager Noah Pfefferblit said: “I was very saddened to learn the news as was everyone here at C.B. 1. It is a great loss for us.”

Speaking of his father, Bradford Reed said: “My dad was a fantastic guy, extremely good fun, the closest person in the world to me and we couldn’t have had a better relationship.”

Reed was divorced. His son has asked that donations in his memory be made to the South Street Seaport Museum, which is hosting a private memorial service is to be held in February.