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Remembering John Koos

An older white man with close cropped grey hair and glasses sits leaning back, small green linear paintings on paper hang in the background, next to a bookshelf

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of artist, professor, and Emeritus Board Member John Koos, who died in February. In addition to his 15 years of board service, John was a participant in the Foundation's Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) initiative in 2010. As we remember and celebrate John's many contributions, our thoughts are with his family.

John Koos was born in Columbus, Ohio, and lived and worked in Mexico, India, Virginia, Italy, France, Japan, and New York, which was his home base. John was a professor of drawing and painting for a combined forty years at Hampton Institute and at the City University of New York. He exhibited his work widely in New York and beyond. He collaborated with the poet Joe Elliott on the book, Half Gross, and published two books of drawings: Field Trip and Drawings.

A group of six people, ages ranging from 35 to 80
From left: Shervone Neckles-Ortiz and John Koos with CALL Artists Henrietta Mantooth, Arlan Huang, Devraj Dakoji, and Juan Sánchez in 2015.

Koos joined the Joan Mitchell Foundation's Board of Directors in 1995 and made significant contributions in particular to the formation of the Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) initiative. It was John who questioned, in a board meeting in 2007, how the Foundation could assist artists in keeping their work out of museum dumpsters.

This question led the Foundation toward ten years of fieldwork. In these early days of the CALL program, the Foundation trained Legacy Specialists to work directly with artists in their studios to organize and document their work. After stepping down from the board, John participated in this program from 2010-2011. The Foundation's learnings from working with artists like John informed the legacy and estate planning guides that are now freely available to artists via the Foundation's website.

In 2013, David Bratton, who worked with John Koos as a Legacy Specialist, interviewed the artist in his studio to reflect on his artistic practice, teaching, and contributions to the formative years of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

A perpetually positive and creative person, John's practice of making a drawing a day serves as an inspiration to us all. You can see his work at

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