Marlene Kleiner, who, as executive director of the Rockland Center for the Arts from 1974-1985, transformed ROCA into a regionally significant arts and cultural center, died Tuesday at age 85. During her tenure at ROCA, class offerings increased, renowned teachers were hired and a myriad of far ranging exhibits were held, among them “Works on Paper,” featuring art by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Pousette-Dart.
Perhaps her greatest contribution was her ability to attract worldwide talent to the center. In one year, for example, ROCA’s string quartet series featured the Concord, Guarneri, Manhattan and Tokyo string quartets. Marlene was born in Jersey City in 1931. Her mother died when she was 16; she pushed forward and studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music before becoming a copywriter for Allied Stores and a public relations writer for RKO Radio Pictures.
In 1952 she married Robert Kleiner, a lawyer from Paterson, NJ, who shared her love of books, art, music, travel and progressive politics. When Bob won a big case in 1956, they sailed for Europe, staying 3 months and returning with $26 in their pockets. They then settled in Hawthorne, NJ, and she was home for a time raising her two sons.
In 1971, she formed FOCUS Gallery in Ridgewood, NJ, where she organized innovative shows, including one on New Guinea art and an “Art for McGovern” fundraising exhibit in 1972. She and Bob moved to Grandview in 1983 where Marlene was active in local affairs, including service on the Nyack Hospital Board of Trustees, the Art in Public Places Committee, the Tappan Zee Playhouse Preservation Committee and as Deputy Director of the Hudson River Defense League.
After her time at ROCA, she was a fundraising consultant for The Rainforest Alliance, a representative for Richard Pousette-Dart, and, later, as a real estate agent until she was nearly 80. Eight years after Bob’s death in 1992, she and Morrill Cole formed another wonderful relationship that flourished until his death last year.
She is survived by her sons Thom and Eric, daughters in law Deborah and Valerie and grandchildren Caroline, Susannah, Emma and Jackson, all of whom feel fortunate to have had their lives enriched by knowing her and appreciate how lucky they are to have shared meaningful time with a truly unique person.
A memorial service will be held at ROCA, 27 S. Greenbush Rd., West Nyack, on Sunday, November 6 at 11 a.m.