William S. Bartman
October 14, 1946 - September 15, 2005
Bill Bartman soldiered through most of his adult life as a seriously unhealthy person. From his early twenties on he was subject to a series of medical calamities that only toughened his resolve. He lived at least a decade beyond when most of us, especially Bill, assumed he could. With barely diminished intensity, he was working on a book project a matter of hours before he died.
Bill began in the theater as a brilliant director with huge ambitions and energy. His productions while a student at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, were legendary. He went back to his native Los Angeles after graduation, taught school and was involved in art education programs that brought artists into schools and prisons. Starting in 1972, he ran the Oxford and West Coast theater companies, where for eleven years he directed or oversaw over forty productions from"Marat/Sade" to "Under Milkwood." From 1979 to 1984 he worked in the film industry, as a director on eleven movies and as a writer or producer on twelve films. As he moved into contemporary visual art, first as an avid collector, he maintained his flair for drama and his capacity to direct and orchestrate his shifting casts of characters.
In 1987 Bill founded Art Resources transfer (A.R.T.), which he ran until his death. At A.R.T. Bill edited and produced fifteen books. A.R.T. Press's books focused on individual artists; each artist's own vision and voice shaped the development, text, and production of the book. While A.R.T. books were broadly distributed commercially, Bill also created Distribution to Underserved Communities (D.U.C.) an innovative program to prmote freedom of expression and wider access to visual art. D.U.C. has placed more than 90,000 books from non-profit and commercial publishers in public libraries in all 50 states.
In 1996 Bill opened the first of his two not-for-profit bookstores in Chelsea with a connected exhibition space that gave shows to several hundred artists. He campaigned for unknown artists no less than for leading figures of his time. He engaged all his energies to support contemporary art, artists, and books as vital to a vibrant, free, and democratic society.
Beyond his frenetic professional life, Bill was an indefatigable agitator against society's injustices and the failings of major institutions, governments, and governmental officials. His outrage and indignation fueled his will to exist, but even more it was his deep and passionate friendships and loyalties that kept him alive.
Bill Bartman will remain, as a friend remarked upon learning of his death, chronically alive in our memories. His books and public library book distribution program have survived him and will survive us all.
Muchnic, Suzanne, "Launching a Bold Venture Against the Odds," LA Times, Dec. 21, 1991
Newhall, Edith, "A.R.T. Works ," New York Magazine, Feb. 10, 1997
Baker, Elizabeth C., "William Bartman 1946-2005 ," Art in America, Dec., 2005