Madelaine “Maddy” Gold, beloved local painter, youth advocate and longtime professor of drawing and design at Drexel University and University of the Arts, died suddenly at home on November 12, 2022 of cardiac arrest.
Maddy, as she was known by everyone, had been diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive stage 4 metastatic cancer, which she fought valiantly with her extraordinary team of doctors at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Hospital. She withstood surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. As she told her wife Victoria often, “I am doing this for us, so we can have more time together, so we can get past this and go back to living our lives like we want to.”
She wanted nothing more than to return to her full life as wife, painter, educator and activist.
A native Philadelphian, Maddy was a fixture on the arts and arts education scene in Philadelphia. A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) with a master’s degree in painting from Pratt Institute in New York, Maddy began her long teaching career while still at Pratt, teaching in the Saturday school at PCA. Her parents, the painters Albert and Aurora Gold, also taught at PCA where Albert Gold headed the Illustration Department at the college for many years.
A well-known artist in Philadelphia, Maddy had been awarded a Ford Foundation grant for painting and had exhibited her work in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. She had one-woman shows at the Philadelphia Art Alliance and at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) and had been in numerous group shows at local galleries. Her work is in various private collections as well as in the offices of several local agencies and corporations.
While her art was a major part of her life, Maddy loved teaching, and considered that her life’s work and calling. She taught from the time she was 20 until just months before her death. She spent 17 years teaching high school while also teaching college courses at night, and then after she left high-school teaching, taught art full-time at three of the top arts colleges in Philadelphia: University of the Arts, Philadelphia University and Drexel University. She was teaching in Drexel’s design department for the last 12 years of her life, right up until February 2022 when she first became ill.
A beloved teacher, Maddy peppered her classes in drawing and design with the essence of her: tales from her life, critiques of politics, and interpolations of film and literature. And humor, lots and lots of humor. Her classes were immensely popular.
Victoria says that wherever they went, current or past students of Maddy’s would cross their path, always excited to see her. Victoria recounts how one Christmas Eve, after midnight Mass at St. Mark’s church, she and Maddy walked to Rittenhouse Square. It was snowing lightly as they sat on a bench and watched the snow fall. Yet in the serene quiet, at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, came a classic call: “Ms. Gold! Maddy Gold!” Two students of hers were walking through the park and had to say hello.
Maddy came out as a lesbian while attending the Philadelphia High School for Girls. It was at Girl’s High that she met her first girlfriend and future wife, journalist Victoria Brownworth. The couple had just celebrated their 23rd anniversary on October 6.
Maddy’s own experiences as a teenaged lesbian made her a fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth. She believed strongly that it was important for LGBTQ students to have out role models to keep them from feeling isolated and alone. Maddy said she was honored that so many queer and trans students came out to her and that she was able to direct them to programs and services for support, particularly for students whose families had rejected them for their identities.
Maddy was deeply engaged in local and national politics, and in the week before her death she voted proudly to send John Fetterman to the Senate to “beat those traitorous insurrectionists.” Her politics were a defining part of who she was and how fiercely she championed the things she valued: education for all, healthcare for all, LGBTQ rights, reproductive and immigrant rights, racial justice, climate science, and animal welfare. The granddaughter of four immigrants, Maddy was proud that Philadelphia was a sanctuary city.
Maddy was known for her broad artistic talent, her dedication to her students, her transcendent wit, her advocacy and her activism. She is survived by her wife, Victoria Brownworth, her brother, the composer Robert Gold, her mother, Aurora Gold, her sisters-in-law Dr. Zia Gajary and Dr. Jennie Goldenberg, her nieces, nephews and cousins, and her closest friends, including Judith Redding, Roberta Hacker and Martha Peech. Donations in her name can be made to MANNA, who provided meals to her throughout her illness, and to The Trevor Project. A public memorial service is planned for January.