Long-time Columbia arts leader passes at 68

Her leadership turned CMA into powerhouse

Sad news from Columbia this past weekend that Karen Brosius, erstwhile leader of the Columbia Museum of Art and most recently of the USC School of Business, has passed away.

According to her obituary, the 68-year-old, “a pillar of Columbia’s civil, social and artistic life,” died at her home from glioblastoma, a brain cancer.

Extensive interviews … lead [sic] to her hiring in 2004 as the executive cirector. As the museum was “in the red” at the time, Ms. Brosius said, “we have nowhere to go but up.” And, up they did over the next 13 years. Galvanizing the museum’s board, staff and volunteers as ambassadors of the museum, and developing vibrant and award-winning programs, Ms. Brosius turned around and revitalized the museum and quadrupled annual attendance and outreach. She led a master planning process for a $16 million capital campaign for endowment, directed strategic planning for the museum and fostered strong government relationships securing government funding across city, county, state and Washington levels. She attracted museum support and interest from a wide range of national and regional funding sources and furthered the museum’s dynamic presence on social media and on the web. She led the museum’s fourth successful American Alliance of Museums accreditation in 2007 and was winner of the 2016 National Medal for Museum Service, awarded in a ceremony at The White House and the winner of the 2016 Governor’s Arts Award as the top arts organization in South Carolina, the only museum to win the award twice.

Brosius left the museum after 13 years to return to New York City for a job teaching culinary skills to at-risk youth before returning to Columbia three years later. She was named executive director of the Folks Center for International Business at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.

Appropriately, a memorial service celebrating Brosius’ life is to be held Monday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. at CMA.

Update, 18 Oct. 2023, 08:50 ET

CMA released the following statement from Executive Director Della Watkins this morning:

“The passing of Karen Brosius is just heartbreaking. In her 13 years at the helm of the Columbia Museum of Art, Karen brought 50 featured exhibitions to the CMA, completed a five-year capital campaign, and led the team to the prestigious National Medal for Museum Service. Karen had a keen ability to solicit support for art and education, and her work strategically maneuvered the CMA toward a bold future. I feel most fortunate to have been handed the baton from Karen. Her CMA family sends condolences to Willson and their family and friends.”