building, until the Four Arts converted the space in 2017 into offices. “That’s why I was able to work all those hours, because I was upstairs,” she said.
Former Four Arts board Chairwoman Edith Dixon will be sad to see Mato go.
“She’s been a treasure,” she said. “I don’t know of anyone who could do the kind of job she’s done.”
Not many people have such a range of expertise or such excellent taste, said former President Ervin Duggan, who in his 14 years with the Four Arts captained the greatest expansion in the organization’s history. “Nancy was the artistic heart and soul of the Four Arts all her time there,” he said. “The programs reflected her taste and personality.”
Mato has a gift for picking high-quality programs that appeal to vastly different audiences, said board member Joseph Flanagan, who heads the music committee.
Mato is as modest as she is talented, said board member Shelley Gubelmann, who worked with her on the film committee, but no pushover. “She’s quietly and modestly strong,” Gubelmann said.
Leaving her mark
Mato will miss the Four Arts. “This place has been like family,” she said. “It’s the most unusual organization.” When she arrived in June 1986, it was a far more insular and smaller institution. In the 1985-86 season the organization offered three exhibitions, 12 lectures, five concerts, 12 films and three programs for young people. This season, it hosted more than 400 cultural events.
Among the programs added under Mato’s watch are the Sunday afternoon concerts and the “Met Opera: Live in HD,” “Bolshoi Ballet,” “National Theatre in London” and “Exhibition on Screen HD” series.
One of her favorite tasks is installing art, for which she won much praise from lenders and visitors alike.
For 1997’s “Mingei: Japanese Folk Art From the Montgomery Collection,” Mato designed a stage with a Japanese gate and fire pit and lined it with tatami mats to create an authentic setting to display kitchen utensils from the collection.
For a 2006 exhibition of resident Bill Koch’s maritime art — one of three shows featuring works from his collections — Mato arranged for America3, the dark-horse winner of the 1992 America’s Cup, to be installed on the lawn. The 2012 exhibition of Koch’s western art holds the attendance record, at 35,529.
Items from Koch’s collections have been exhibited at museums ranging from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to the Louvre, but “I will tell you that the easiest person I’ve worked with is Nancy Mato,” he said. “She is fantastic.”
Mato oversaw the acquisition and installation of works for the Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden, including what might be its most photographed attraction, Lawrence Holofcener’s Allies — a bronze bench with just enough room for visitors to squeeze in between the seated figures of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
“Nancy knew the artist and arranged for it to come here,” said Susie Elson, who led the art acquisition committee until she became board chairwoman in 2017. “He was excited to have it here.” When the artist wanted to sell the sculpture, he sold it to the Four Arts for a reasonable price instead of putting it up for auction, Elson said.
Mato, 77, reduced her responsibilities in 2016, when Phillip Bergmann took over programming the film and music series.
She held on to the exhibitions “because I wanted very much to do the Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibition that I’ve been working on for three years,” she said.
This season’s "Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art From Paper" and "A Man for All Seasons: The Art of Winston Churchill" have been among the Four Arts’ most popular shows.
Once Mato retires, she plans to spend more time in nature and maybe resume making art, a pastime she gave up for her job. “I’m sad, but I’m a tiny bit excited about spreading my wings a bit and having all that time,” she said. “It’s going to be a discovery for me.”
The Four Arts will announce her successor soon, said Katie Edwards, director of communications and development.