Monday, January 26, 2009

Ave Montague's Passing


I received word that Bay Area PR/Event Planning extraordinaire, Ave Montague, expired on Saturday. Once more information is obtained, I will modify this post. Thanks.

Regretfully yours,


Via SFGATE January 28, 2009

Ave Montague dies - Black Film Festival founder

Jesse Hamlin, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ave Montague, an arts impresario and publicist who created the San Francisco Black Film Festival and was a vital force on the African American cultural scene, was found dead on Saturday in her San Francisco apartment. She was 64.

According to the San Francisco medical examiner's office, she died of natural causes related to cardiovascular disease.

Smart, passionate and relentlessly hard working, Ms. Montague was known for the persistence with which she promoted the arts organizations and causes she believed in. In addition to running the annual San Francisco Black Film Festival - an eight-day bash with films from around the world and tributes to African American artists like Billy Dee Williams, Melvin Van Peebles and Taraji P. Henson - Ms. Montague publicized many nonprofit groups over the years. They included the Lorraine Hansberry and Oakland Ensemble theaters, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association, the Omega Boys Club and the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) .

"Until Ave came along, we had no black PR person who could get you coverage in major outlets," said veteran San Francisco television journalist Belva Davis, who sat on the board of MoAD and other nonprofits Ms. Montague promoted. "She worked seven days a week. She was very creative and determined. Ave played a very important part in bringing these black projects and nonprofits to the attention of the public. She was extremely important to young filmmakers. She was a wonderful friend. There's not another like her."

Peter Fitzsimmons, director of the Jazz Heritage Center, was also saddened to hear of the death of Ms. Montague, who lived in the Fillmore Street complex that houses the jazz center and the 1300 on Fillmore restaurant, which she also publicized.

"Ave was a mentor to many," said Fitzsimmons, who volunteered at the San Francisco Black Film Festival (whose board plans to continue Ms. Montague's work and put the festival on in June as planned). "She was a class act who was a major contributor to the cultural identity of the African American community."

Born in East Orange, N.J., Ms. Montague attended East Orange High School before earning a marketing degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She was accepted into the Macy's executive training program and was among the company's first African American senior managers. She worked as a group sales manager for Macy's and as a buyer for J. Magnin.

After moving to San Francisco in the 1980s, Ms. Montague started her own public relations firm, representing artists and nonprofit groups like the United Negro College Fund and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Out of the latter came the San Francisco Black Film Festival, which Ms. Montague started in 1998 on a shoestring budget and built into a prime forum for African American filmmakers and for films from around the globe, including Africa, Brazil, Cuba and Europe, that dealt with, as she put it, "a spectrum of subjects from socioeconomics to streetwise urban culture."

Ms. Montague received the Business Woman of the Year Award from the San Francisco Business and Professional Women's Club in 1994, and, with the late Faith Fancher, was a founding member of Friends of Faith, an organization that educates women about breast cancer.

She was always cooking up something, whether it was a charity fundraiser or the mail-order video business she started in 1989 to provide films by and about black people. Her last effort was the big Inaugural West celebration for President Obama that she co-produced at San Francisco's Metreon on Jan. 20. As usual, she packed the place.

Ms. Montague is survived by a son, Kali Ray, of Atlanta, and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is being planned.

E-mail Jesse Hamlin at jhamlin@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page B - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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