Remembering Ethel Brody

Remembering Ethel Brody

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Ethel Brody, an artist, avid arts supporter and recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts in the Individual category.

Image above: Ethel Brody with Columbia Museum of Art staff members during the Verner Awards ceremony.

From The State:

Ethel Brody, a longtime Columbia philanthropist and lifetime trustee of the Columbia Museum of Art, died Sunday evening at the age of 90.

Brody and her sister Leona Sobel, who died in 2012, were heavily involved in the museum for five decades. Brody liked to be involved in every aspect of the museum’s programming, from special music events to donating money and artwork, said the museum’s executive director Karen Brosius.

“It was her No. 1 charitable institution. She just cared so much about it,” Brosius said. “She felt so strongly that the Columbia Museum of Art was such a strong institution and deserved to be the best art museum in South Carolina.”

Brosius, who has been the museum’s executive director for 10 years, met Brody and Sobel her first day on the job. Brosius worked with the sisters often until their passings.

Brody and Sobel, who lived together in the Quinine Hill community off Forest Drive after the death of their husbands, would often take trips to New York to buy art for the museum. The art they donated over the years was shown in a 2011 exhibit called “A Tale of Two Sisters.”

“The legacy she leaves is unmatched, not just in the number of works, but in how much she cared for the staff,” Brosius said. “She was always engaged with us at every level. The works of art she gave us will stay with us forever.”

Brody, an artist herself, stayed up-to-date with contemporary art trends, reading art magazines and making frequent visits to exhibits of up-and-coming artists, even in her later years. She had a distinct taste and a good eye for quality works in all media, from painting to photography, Brosius said.

“She knew what she liked and she knew what she didn’t like. She had a tremendous eye for quality,” Brosius said. “I can’t imagine what the museum would have been without Ethel and her sister Leona. They took us to the next level.”

Brody was given the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts in 2013 by the South Carolina Arts Commission Board in honor of her support of art in Columbia. The award is the state’s highest in arts. Brody also helped financially support the 701 Center for Contemporary Art when it opened in 2008 and sponsored an artist residency there each year.

The Columbia Museum of Art will hold a public memorial service for Brody at 2 p.m. Wednesday, following a private ceremony in the morning.


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