Cover photo for Stephen Fleischman's Obituary
Stephen Fleischman Profile Photo
1954 Stephen 2024

Stephen Fleischman

July 7, 1954 — January 14, 2024

Madison - Stephen Fleischman, who nurtured and expanded the cultural and artistic life of Madison as the director of the Madison Art Center, now the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, for nearly 30 years, died on Sunday, January 14, 2024, after battling an aggressive T-cell intestinal lymphoma for more than a year.


A native of Newton, Massachusetts, Steve absorbed a love of art, music, and culture from his parents. Following his mother's footsteps, he arrived in Madison in 1973 to attend UW-Madison, where he majored in studio art. After running his own pottery studio and shop in Seattle following graduation, he returned to UW-Madison as a Bolz Center for Arts Administration graduate student. There, he and a fellow student, Barbara Katz, formed a loving partnership that lasted 43 years. 


Steve was born in Boston on July 7, 1954, to David and Dorothy Myers Fleischman. He served as Director of Program Planning at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and Director/ Chief Curator of Madison Art Center—later Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. He was a friend to creative people internationally and a willing witness to artistic projects and human beings' best impulses. Steve felt blessed to live in a time when respect, hope, and optimism counted for almost everything.


Steve is survived by his wife, Barbara Katz; his sons Danny Fleischman (Ariel), Ben Fleischman, and Jake Fleischman; and his adored pup, Brewster. He is also survived by his sister, Judy Fleischman, and her husband, Jeremy Stahlin of Boston, nephews Forest Sun and Bryn Bowman (Sipei Liu), and great-nieces Sophie and Lexie Bowman. He was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Laura.


Steve's family is grateful for the extraordinary care from Dr. Christopher Fletcher and his team at the Carbone Cancer Center at UW Madison and Agrace Hospice. Memorial contributions can be made to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.


Services will be held at Temple Beth El on Thursday, January 18, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. Graveside services will follow at Beit Olamim Cemetery (located within Sunset Memory Gardens). Please contact Temple Beth El for Shiva information. Online Condolences may be expressed at


To view the memorial service on livestream, go to YouTube at


Cress Funeral & Cremation Service

3610 Speedway Road

Madison, WI 53705


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Stephen Fleischman, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

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Thursday, January 18, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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