The passing of Patricia Modell has me thinking back to last September, when she and Art were honored at the Lyric for their $3.5 million donation to the theater’s capital campaign. That led to a convoluted new name—the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric—for the venue, but there was nothing convoluted about Patricia, who seemed candid, direct, and sure of the value of philanthropy. In short, she came across as someone whose priorities were straight.
After the usual speeches from a host of politicos that day, Patricia took the stage and injected some real personality into the proceedings. An actress herself—she did tons of TV work in the 1950s and 1960s—she was spirited, but unassuming, and managed to convey that giving money to the Lyric was the right thing to do, in part, because “a city without a theater is like a big party without any conversation.”
Her life could have been one big party, yet she chose to be engaged in many civic-minded conversations and activities that assisted various non-profits and charities. “When I saw the things we could do here, with this help, I said, ‘Art, we have to do it,’” recalled Patricia, as her husband looked on. She was referring to the theater, but she could have been talking about any number of initiatives she and Art helped spearhead around town.
Patricia made a name for herself as a genuine philanthropist, which seemed more meaningful to her than getting her name plastered on a building. In fact, she told the audience at the Lyric that “we didn’t want our name on the thing, but they insisted.”
Then, she quickly added: “Art and I are only too happy to give this.”
And Baltimore was happy to receive.