Alan W. Barnett Alan W. Barnett passed away on the morning of June 20, 2020 after a long, full life, though the days prior he had exclaimed, "I have a lot left to do." Born on August 29, 1928 in Chicago to Irvin and Sarah Barnett. His mother sadly passed away shortly after the birth of his sister, Janet Weaver, when he was eight years old. He was adopted by his father's second wife, Henrietta, two years later. She introduced him to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he began Saturday classes, initiating his love of art. While Alan's parents and sister moved to Homestead, Florida Alan finished high school in Chicago and entered the University of Chicago, attaining a Philosophy degree in 1948. Alan's education continued at Columbia University in New York, achieving a Master of Arts in Comparative Literature and Ph.D. in Esthetics and Art Criticism in 1955. While a student at Columbia, Alan traveled to San Francisco and met another adventurous spirit and love of his life to be, Ruth Panofsky, also visiting San Francisco from New York in 1950. Alan was drafted into the Army in 1954 and before he could be shipped out, married Ruth at the NY City Hall in January of 1955. They would be married for over 65 years. As Alan traveled by troop ship across the Atlantic to where he would be stationed in Salzburg, Austria, Ruth would meet him there. They gloried together in the Alps and surroundings as Alan wrote for Stars and Stripes, reporting on the ancient battlefields that they would visit on their travels there. Returning to the United States, Alan was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, continuing as a newspaper reporter and speechwriter. Leaving the Army, Alan's teaching career began at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY in 1957, where he taught Humanities. It was there that Alan and Ruth started their family, a daughter Anne in 1957, son Peter in 1959 and son Daniel in 1962. Looking to get out from the Rochester winters and seeking medical help for their son, Alan and Ruth moved to where they had originally met and spent time, San Francisco. In 1962, Alan became an Assistant Professor of Humanities at San Francisco State University and settled in Mill Valley, where Ruth and he resided together to this day, enjoying all the cultural elements of San Francisco and the ocean and hills of Marin. In 1965, Alan moved to teach Humanities at San Jose State University, reaching Full Professor in 1982 and retiring in 1990 after 33 years of teaching. During this period as Alan and Ruth raised their children, they became social activists on civil rights, peace and criminal justice issues. Alan organized and participated in the Marin telephone war tax initiative, peace marches and rallies throughout the SF Bay Area to end the war in Vietnam, campaigned for the civil rights and fair pay for farm workers and social justice reforms, writing and speaking out to introduce true and equal justice for all, particularly for unrepresented minorities. He was active in State University strikes for ethnic rights, which drew together his deep interest in art and politics, and resulted in his teaching of relations to art history and politics, especially in the Western Hemisphere. Alan began documenting community murals throughout the US and interviewing their makers as he traveled the country with Ruth. Starting in 1975 he expanded these trips with Ruth to Latin America, documenting murals and graphics and interviewing artists while at the same time giving lectures throughout the hemisphere on public art. In 1984, Alan had published his seminal work, "Community Murals: The People's Art," a 410-page study of the first dozen years of grassroot work throughout the US since 1967. From this work grew many friends of muralists/artists, scholars, educators, and those that admired meaningful art. Alan, an intellectual at heart, continued his political and social justice activism after retirement and in 1998, he was honored separately by the Marin County Human Rights Commission and Marin Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for "lifetime humanitarian activity." Alan's activism became more local post-retirement as he published articles regarding the systemic racism in Marin and the need for public oversight of the sheriff, long before many people's eyes opened to this issue. Alan had a strong belief in standing up for those that couldn't stand up for themselves, or those who could, but were not heard. He brought studied insights into issues affecting society. Alan was an adamant voice for peace and justice. His encyclopedic research, reading and thoughts were further documented in what he referred to as his forever book, "The Art of Work." Alan also found time for family and recreation inclusive of many hikes, backpacking, skiing (downhill and cross country), and travel, including a three month family sojourn through Europe in a rented VW bus, a pottery tour of China with Ruth, along with trips to as many art exhibits as possible and season passes to the SF Opera, which he reveled in. In later years, this transitioned to working in and watching their home's garden/jungle bloom, walking the beaches, swimming and ending the day with a good stout beer before heading back to his study to read and write. Throughout Alan's everlasting affection for Ruth, he was proudest of his and Ruth's progeny, Anne's (Chris) family: grandchildren, Daniel (Julia), Michael (Adriana), and Jessica (Rhys); great-grandchildren, Mia, Luke, AvaGrace, Anthony, and Ayana; and Peter's (Dayna) family: grandchildren, Andy (Fleur) and Shoshanna; as well as son, Daniel (deceased). Alan will be missed by niece Robin and nephews Marc, John and David, and their families. A life well lived; he was loved by all.
Published in Marin Independent Journal on Aug. 16, 2020.