AUSTIN (KXAN) — A celebration of life ceremony was held at the Elisabet Ney Museum Saturday to honor Oliver Franklin, the museum’s site coordinator.
Franklin died from cancer on April 4, the museum said. He was 60 years old.
Saturday also marks the eighth annual Ney Day, where the museum celebrates women in the arts and sciences in commemoration of Elisabet Ney.
Ney Day celebrations will take place between noon and 4 p.m. Franklin’s celebration of life began at 4 p.m.
KXAN spoke to Franklin in June 2021, when the museum reopened its doors for the first time in 15 months as COVID-19 cases in the Austin area began to decline.
“A lot of different emotions going on at once,” he said, reflecting on the reopening. “It’s great to see old friends again, so my relationship with Elisabet Ney is one I’m glad to rekindle.”
Franklin was the director of the museum for a decade and was passionate about art, Austin, and championing Austin artists.
Friends of the Elisabet Ney Museum released the following statement:
“The Friends of the Elisabet Ney are heartbroken over the passing of Oliver Franklin, Site Director of the museum for a decade, the stalwart steward of Ney’s legacy, and most importantly our friend. He brought us together to help continue what he so earnestly worked to do each day: to transform the Ney from a humble repository for a sculptor’s busts of dignitaries into a vibrant, inclusive, and dynamic platform for the exchange of ideas, exhibition of contemporary work by female artists, a place where individualists can carve their own path, and always a place for accessible programming. Even as Oliver quietly battled cancer for the past four years, his spirit and resolve were unflappable—eternally proclaiming Elisabet’s battle cry “Sursum”, which is Latin for upwards. The Friends will honor a beautiful life cut too short and the ongoing legacy of Oliver’s work by carrying his vision and enthusiasm upward… and onward. Sursum, Oliver!”
The museum is dedicated to the life’s work of Ney, a 19th Century sculptor who fled her native Germany during the Franco-Prussian War and moved to Texas.
She died in 1907, and four years later her studio in the Hyde Park neighborhood was transformed into a museum housing the world’s largest collection of her art. The National Register of Historic Places has listed it as a state and local landmark.
Speaking last year, Franklin reflected on “so many Austin icons we’ve lost in the last year,” but vowed that the museum “isn’t going anywhere.”
“I think people can find some solace and serenity in the notion of coming back to a place that they are familiar with and that will stay and is representative of the city in a very unique way,” he said.