Barbara McLaughlin,The Fund for Park Avenue

Barbara McLaughlin

Barbara McLaughlin
President, The Fund for Park Avenue

Barbara was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and grew up mostly in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

When Barbara graduated from college, she knew wanted to go to NYC. While visiting a friend in the city, she accomplished her goal and was hired by Christie’s Auction House.

Barbara worked at Christies for 13 years, performing jobs in operations, administration, client marketing and special event planning. “I traveled quite a bit in the early days, saw wonderful art collections and met so many interesting and colorful people. One of my last projects at Christies was working on the sale of Princess Diana’s gowns which benefited some of the Princesses’ favorite charities.”

It was while working on the New York fundraising event for the sale of the gowns, that Barbara became acquainted with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and some of the board members of The Society (the volunteer fundraising arm of the Center). One thing led to another and when the Executive Director of The Society left, Barbara was asked if she knew of anyone who might be interested in the position.  She herself was interested so she put together a resume, sent it in and was hired.  Barbara worked at The Society of MSKCC for 10 years.

Barbara says “hard work, good communication skills and the ability to get along with a wide variety of people” have been so important to her success in each of her positions. Her interest in beautifying her surroundings – be it a home, a garden, a neighborhood or a city – led her to her present job at The Fund for Park Avenue. Barbara is responsible for raising the money necessary to plant, light and maintain the trees and flowers on the Park Avenue malls.  Using contributions from the community, The Fund ensures that the malls are beautifully maintained throughout the year and feature seasonal highlights such as tulips, blooming Hawthorn and cherry trees and colorful begonias.  Currently Barbara is working on the Park Avenue Tree Lighting – which involves lighting fir trees on the Avenue in honor of those who lost their lives defending our country. This tradition began in 1945 by a few Park Avenue families as a way to honor the men and women who died in World War II.  The trees will be “lit” on Sunday, December 4th and will remain in place through mid-January.

Barbara also serves on The Fund for Park Avenue’s Sculpture Advisory Committee which is responsible for recommending sculpture exhibitions to the Public Art Program of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. These temporary exhibitions bring a wide variety of art to the city and are a wonderful way to draw attention to the Park Avenue malls.

Barbara says the one of the biggest challenges of her job is making people aware of the fact that all of the work done on the malls is privately funded. Many people assume that the City pays for it.  And as if maintaining what are essentially a series of container gardens in the middle of a busy street isn’t enough of a challenge, “Mother Nature” keeps Barbara on her toes. Luckily, she reported that no trees were lost on the malls during the recent “Halloween blizzard.”

The most enjoyable aspect of her job is “seeing people enjoying the malls and interacting with the sculpture as they walk or drive up and down the avenue.”

When Barbara has free time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading and nesting.  She shares her love of reading with her two children – a 7 year old son and a 15 year old daughter.  She just read “The Wizard of Oz” to her son and “To Kill a Mockingbird” with her daughter.