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Spectacular News for the CMA

April 19, 2016

It is with great excitement and pride that I share with you that the Columbia Museum of Art has received the nation’s highest honor awarded to museums for service to their communities. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s museums and libraries, has selected the CMA to receive the National Medal on June 1 in Washington, D.C.

At the heart of this recognition are the CMA’s arts educational outreach efforts to at-risk, rural, and underserved communities. Through these unique programs we are enriching lives and engaging minds in ways that encourage South Carolina students of all ages to connect in creative and innovative ways.

Our recognition as a national award winner is as much about the CMA as it is about the generosity and spirit of South Carolina. With dynamic exhibitions and educational programs for every age, the CMA is redefining the modern museum.

We extend our most heartfelt thanks to each of our community and educational partners, donors, trustees, members, volunteers, friends, and visitors, as well as the City of Columbia, Richland County, and the South Carolina General Assembly. Their visionary leadership and support make all of our work possible.

Please share this wonderful news; our tireless staff thanks you and the community for this award. We are truly humbled to have received this incredible honor for the great work we accomplish together. 

Warm regards,

Karen Brosius
Executive Director


We extend our deepest thanks to each of the local leaders and community partners who supported our nomination. Here's some of what they said:

“In 1998, the Columbia Museum of Art began the revitalization of the Columbia City Center along Columbia's Main Street corridor when it renovated and relocated into an abandoned retail building which had been a blight in downtown. Today, the Columbia Museum of Art is housed in this structure which is the epicenter of what is now a vibrant business, cultural, and entertainment activity center along Columbia's Main Street. In addition to being the impetus for this revitalization effort and more importantly, the Columbia Museum of Art has engaged this region in numerous efforts to promote the arts to diverse and underserved communities throughout central South Carolina. Aside from promoting the arts in schools, the Columbia Museum of Art serves as a community center, an art studio for children and as an entertainment venue which has fostered an appreciation for the arts and enhanced the quality of life in the Greater Columbia Area. The visionary leadership team of the Columbia Museum of Art is a dedicated and hard working group of citizens that ensures that the arts play an integral role in the continued growth and development of this community… There is no other entity in this great nation which is more deserving of this prestigious honor.”
Congressman James E. Clyburn

“I believe that the Columbia Museum of Art's service to the citizens of South Carolina makes them most deserving of this honor. Since its opening in 1950, the Columbia Art Museum has strived to be more than a home for fine art but rather a place for civil discussions, open expression, and a sanctuary for those seeking opportunity and inspiration. This museum has served as a cultural institution for our community and state, which tells the story of an ever changing American South. Additionally, Columbia Art Museum hosts a weekly program for children aged four-12 as well as a program specifically for teens. Through these programs, this institution hopes to deepen local children's understanding of their world, while developing the student's individual talents. Well-recognized in the community, the Columbia Museum of Art has exemplified exceptional distinction. Because of the museum's tireless commitment to promoting art education and its extraordinary contributions to the world of art and history, it is clear that the Columbia Museum of Art is worthy of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.”
Congressman Joe Wilson

“As mayor of the City of Columbia, I work closely with arts and historic preservation leaders from across the city to create a culture where creativity flourishes. Beginning with my transition team in 2010, I’ve placed renewed emphasis on arts and history in Columbia recognizing that invigorating the creative community leads to new and better jobs and enhanced economic activity across the city. Today artistic and cultural opportunities can be found in every corner of Columbia, nowhere more prominent than the Columbia Museum of Art… The CMA serves as a community leader, not only as a home for a remarkable collection of international art, but as a leading educational institution and community partner. Special outreach programs with St. Lawrence Place, Prosperity Project, First Steps and more have a profound impact as we bridge our past to a brighter future and, with significant growth its annual investment in education with a special focus on minority and at-risk communities, the CMA has proven to be a true leader in these efforts. The spirit of a city builds from its Main Street and the continuing success of our downtown corridor would be impossible without the incredible work done at the Columbia Museum of Art. Together, we’re building a truly world-class city and I firmly believe that, with the CMA’s continued partnership, we are well on our way to becoming the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in America.”
Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin

“The CMA provides incredible arts education programs to those in our community who are most in need, the organization I lead, St. Lawrence Place. Participation in the arts makes a significant difference to students from low-income backgrounds, and this essential program is able to fill the gap for our homeless children and teens, providing them with an engaging and safe environment where they can be comfortable expressing themselves and creating works of art without fear of judgment or criticism. The availability of this program ensures that our children are on the right path to success. At St. Lawrence Place, we believe cultural experiences are crucial to our children’s development and play an important role in helping our children break the cycle of generational poverty into which many of them have been born. Since 2008, the CMA has been helping us to expose our children and teens to the world of art through hands-on studio art activities and tours of the museum’s incredible galleries. It has been a blessing to partner with the CMA and be able to provide our children with a well-rounded and dynamic afterschool program year after year. Ask anyone in Columbia, but especially our St. Lawrence Place children, and they’ll tell you of the extraordinary role the CMA plays in building the spirit of our community.”
Lila Anna H. Sauls, M.A.
President and CEO
Trinity Housing Corporation and St. Lawrence Place

“Through our partnerships, RCFS works with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses, families, and individuals to improve school readiness for children in Richland County. Our organization has three key educational priorities--quality, readiness, and success. To enhance our work in these areas, the Columbia Museum of Art began a new partnership with Richland County First Steps last year. ‘First Steps with CMA,’ was developed in response to the need for a consistent visual arts component for First Steps sites in Richland County. The partnership equips parents and caregivers with curriculum-based lessons and activities that connect language and visuals arts. The program focuses on combining literature and art in order to provide children, ages eight weeks to three years, with the skills necessary for success in those first, vital years of school. First Steps with CMA provides dynamic, engaging access to early childhood arts education through a free program for the underserved and at-risk families served by First Steps in Richland County. Together, we are creating environments that encourage all participants and their families to feel comfortable creating art, expressing themselves, and hopefully visiting the museum in person to experience original art time and time again. The CMA's outreach programming is the bridge that helps to connect those who do not have access to the museum to programs that offer lifelong learning opportunities.”
Rick Noble
Richland County First Steps to School Readiness

“Prosperity Project and Columbia Museum of Art have been collaborating together for a little over two years. Each week, at no charge to us, the museum brings a staff member and all supplies to teach our elementary aged students art, which these students would otherwise not receive if not for the museum. Prosperity Project operates an after-school program in one of the highest crime neighborhoods in the inner-city of Columbia. Gangs, drugs, and prostitution are rampant along with the violence that typically accompanies these risky behaviors. However, for an hour each week, a little bit of culture enters into this neighborhood. Using all sorts of different art projects, the museum staff seems to always get the student's creative side flowing, allowing them to express themselves in positive ways, instead of negative. My two favorite projects were a huge mural that highlighted something interesting about themselves and hanging light catchers made out of bendable plastic. One of the students couldn't wait to show their mom, who had never even graduated high school, the hanging masterpiece. The community we serve is tough, however, opening the minds of the students and teaching them to use their creative side is really a critical part of opening up a different world to these students. We are so thankful for the weekly sacrifice the museum and the staff make to bring a breath of fresh air into a community that really needs one.”
Michelle James
Executive Director
Prosperity Project

“I believe it [the Columbia Museum of Art] to be a worthy contender for this recognition.”
Congressman Mick Mulvaney