The Columbia Museum of Art celebrates outstanding artistic creativity through its collection, exhibitions and programs.
Overview | Facts | The Collection | History | Executive Director | Chief Curator
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Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, SC, the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its collection, which encompasses nearly 7,000 works and spans thousands of years of history, representing a full range of world cultures.
Established in 1950, the Museum now welcomes more than 135,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, Arts & Draughts parties and craft haven gatherings.
The collection includes masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, porcelain and works by significant furniture and silver makers, as well as American, Asian, and modern and contemporary art. Of particular interest are Sandro Botticelli's Nativity, Claude Monet's The Seine at Giverny, Canaletto’s View of the Molo, a Dale Chihuly chandelier and art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The CMA is the recipient of a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education and an Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Award for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina.
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The Columbia Museum of Art celebrates outstanding artistic creativity through its collection, exhibitions and programs, interacting in ways that engage the mind and enrich the spirit.
- 120,000 total square feet
- 85,000 developed square feet
- More than 20,000 square feet of exhibition space
Museum Collections and Major Holdings
- Nearly 7,000 objects
- Approximately 400 objects on view
- More than 3,000 works on paper, 600 paintings and 3,000 decorative arts objects
1515 Main Street
Corner of Main and Hampton Street, Columbia, SC
P.O. Box 2068, Columbia, SC 29202
1512 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201
Sunday: 12:00 – 5:00 pm
Tuesday – Friday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
First Thursday of every month: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed Mondays and Major Holidays
$12 adults, $5 students, $10 military, $10 senior citizens
Every Sunday is FREE admission to the museum collection courtesy of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Always FREE for members and children ages 5 and under
The Museum and its facilities are fully accessible for physically challenged visitors.
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The Columbia Museum of Art opened its doors in 1950 and could have been rightly characterized as architecturally small in size, nationally remote in location, and artistically modest in terms of collection. Now, the opposite is true: the CMA is housed in a sleek, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of downtown Columbia and most importantly, the collection has grown to include art of international significance.
Visitors to the CMA discover a world-class collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, a major gift to Columbia from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Among the Kress masterworks is a tender and beautiful Nativity by the legendary Florentine artist, Sandro Botticelli. The Nativity is the only fresco by the artist in the United States and the only one in a location outside of Italy. Another masterwork is the soft and sophisticated portrait of St. Mary Magdalene by the renowned Ambrosius Benson, one of many stellar portraits given by Kress.
In American art, the CMA enjoys extensive holdings in all media. In sculpture, there is Frederic Remington’s classic and still-thrilling Bronco Buster; in painting, Charles Willson Peale’s sanguine portrait of our first President, George Washington; in furniture, Duncan Phyfe’s elegant sofa; and on paper, Edward Hopper's mysterious and evocative Night Shadows. These works and more serve as prelude to the CMA's growing collection of contemporary art that now features Tom Wesselman, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and Sally Mann, among many others.
And, there is the CMA's spectacular View of the Seine by the immortal French impressionist, Claude Monet, the centerpiece of the museum’s later European art. It is a treasure for our audience to come upon, as is the CMA’s rich display of decorative arts that includes silver, stained glass and an impressive array of Chinese export porcelain.
To visit the CMA today is to take a journey both sensuous and spiritual through world history by way of the arts, a journey that only the most imaginative creations can make possible.
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The Columbia Museum of Art opened to the public on March 23, 1950 at its original site, the historic Taylor House on the corner of Bull and Senate Streets. The museum was Columbia's premier cultural institution throughout the 1950s and '60s with its art, natural history and science museum that included a planetarium.
During these years, the Museum's art collection was enhanced by large additions of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art from the Kress Foundation of New York that formed the nucleus of an important European collection. Modest wings were added to the west and east facades of the building in the '60s to accommodate the growing collection as well as the planetarium. During the '70s and '80s, the museum pared down its wider role as a general museum with the deaccession of its natural history collection.
Faced with expensive care required for the building and the need for growth, the museum pursued a host of initiatives, both at its past locale and at a variety of sites – all of which proved unfeasible. It was widely recognized that significant public money was a key to the institution's future. Finally, the City visited the idea of moving the museum to the former Macy's department store located on Main Street.
The downtown site proposal was attractive to local municipal bodies such as Richland County Council and the Columbia City Council because it simultaneously addressed two public problems: the need for expanded public museum facilities and the need to revitalize downtown as the major retail establishments were leaving. The Columbia business community supported the site proposal for its commercial opportunities, possible increase in property values, and potential to attract new visitors downtown.
The new museum facility on Main Street, designed and engineered by Stevens and Wilkinson, opened to the public on July 18, 1998 and allowed the Museum to showcase its substantial art collection. The Museum currently has over 20,000 square feet of gallery space that permits it to bring a wider range of traveling exhibitions to South Carolina and provides the necessary space for the proper presentation of its collection, which includes over 8,800 objects. The current building has well-designed workspaces, storage for collections, art studios, a public auditorium, CMA Shop, and public reception spaces.
On July 18, 2009, the museum opened renovated galleries and re-installed collection. More than 400 fine and decorative art objects are on view, with approximately 90 works on view for the first time and expanded didactic materials to provide context for the collection.
On the second floor, the galleries occupy nearly 12,000 square feet and house the Museum's permanent collection of fine and decorative art. The 17 galleries are dedicated to ancient art from Greece, Rome and Egypt; late Medieval and early Renaissance; High Renaissance; Renaissance; Renaissance in Venice; Mannerism; 17th century Baroque; 18th century European; Neoclassicism; Asian and China Trade; Colonial and Federal America; 19th century American; 19th century European; early 20th century American; and Art Glass.
Temporary exhibitions are presented in a flexible space on the first floor that contains a minimum of 4,000 square feet with the capability of expanding to nearly 7,000 square feet. Gallery 15, on the second floor, also offers smaller changing installations.
The museum provides a "window to the world" for visitors not only through the display of its collection, but with public programs. From Art School classes for teens and adults, to programs specially designed for preschool children, people of all ages can find classes and workshops that inspire and enrich. For those visitors interested in lifelong learning, they can attend lectures, gallery talks and films. Music is another part of the Museum's offerings; world-class musicians as well as local musicians participate in concerts year round. School programs, including home school programs, offered by the Museum are some of the best in the area. School tours are curriculum-based and include an exploration of the galleries and a creative hands-on activity in the studios.
The museum released a study conducted by Miley Gallo & Associates, LLC showing the Museum's economic impact within the community — more than $23 million due to direct, indirect and induced impacts, giving the City of Columbia and Richland County Council a more than ten-fold return on their investment. In addition to the money generated, the Museum supports almost 370 jobs in the Columbia area. More than 12,000 people visit the museum each month and spend almost $8.2 million on lodging, food and beverages.
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Karen Brosius became the Museum’s executive director in February 2004. In 2013, she received the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Recognition of Excellence in Community Leadership, and in 2014 she was appointed by the South Carolina Arts Commission as a Leo Twiggs Scholar and by Furman University as a Riley Institute Fellow. Brosius has worked in all facets of arts management and outreach and came to the Museum from Altria Group, Inc., New York, New York, where her most recent position there was Director of Media Relations. She served as a senior philanthropic, arts, and communications executive at the company. She worked closely with leaders in government, nonprofit, business and the media, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and local and state arts councils. She also worked with leaders in national service organizations such as the American Association of Museums and the Council on Foundations. In addition, Brosius worked on major artist retrospectives, including Jacob Lawrence, John Biggers, Frida Kahlo and a number of living artists including Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Struth and Michael Lucero. Her 21 years with Altria — parent company of Kraft Foods and Philip Morris — included tenures as Director of Corporate Affairs and Director of Corporate Contributions and Public Affairs. Prior to Altria, Brosius served as Public Affairs Officer for The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and as Researcher for the Research Foundation of the City of New York.
Brosius currently serves on the board of The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the South Carolina Arts Alliance, and has served on the board of directors for Arts & Business Council, ArtTable, Funders Concerned About AIDS, National AIDS Fund, Danspace and City Harvest as well as serving on the Council on Foundations Corporate Committee, Council on Foundations Media and Public Affairs Committee and Women in Communications.
Brosius received a master’s degree, summa cum laude, from City University of New York, Hunter College. She also attended the Juilliard School of Music; Ecoles d’arts américaines, Fontainebleau, France; Bryn Mawr, Avignon, France; and Butler University, Indiana.
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Will South joined the Columbia Museum of Art as chief curator in October 2011. South holds a PhD in art history from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York with a focus on American art and a doctoral minor in Italian Renaissance. His dissertation resulted in the exhibition and publication, Color, Myth & Music: Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Synchromism for the North Carolina Museum of Art, 2001. As a graduate student, he was named the Henry Luce Fellow of American Art. He is widely published as a scholar, is a popular guest lecturer and has taught art history extensively at the college level. Last year, he published Marking the Past/ Shaping the Present: The Art of Willis Bing Davis, an exhibition catalogue on this prominent African-American artist. He has also published widely in the field of American impressionism, including In Nature's Temple: The Life and Art of William Wendt for the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California, California Impressionism for Abbeville Press, 1998; and Guy Rose: American Impressionist, 1995, for the Oakland Museum of California Art. South has curated national traveling exhibitions in American Impressionism and American modern art in addition to organizing exhibitions from museums’ permanent collections. Prior to his role at the CMA, South was the chief curator at the Dayton Art Institute.
South was recently accepted to the Getty Leadership Institute for museum professionals and is a member of the College Art Association and the Association of Historians of American Art.
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