Columbia Museum of Art has played an influential role in the community since its opening in 1950, which is only one of the many reasons that the museum has been awarded the 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. On June 1, a special ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the recipients of this prestigious award. This is the third time that a South Carolina institution has received this medal since the award was created in 1994. The Georgetown County Library received the award in 2007, and EdVenture Children’s Museum, located in downtown Columbia, received this award in 2011.
“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,” says Joelle Ryan-Cook, deputy director and director of external affairs for CMA.
One of CMA’s goals is to focus on nurturing the educational needs of students in Columbia, especially those in minority and underserved communities. Historically, these students have had less access to art education, but they are now able to discover their creative ability at CMA through partnerships and after-school programs held by the museum. This effort to expose underserved youth to the arts is part of the reason CMA has played such an integral role in Columbia’s community.
“Although we are proud of the work we do in the world of collecting and exhibiting art, it is about how that work, along with the hundreds of programs we do each year, connects with the members of our community, makes Columbia a better place to live and work, and has a positive impact on people’s lives through our mission,” says Joelle.
The National Medal for Museum and Library Science is intended to celebrate institutions that respond to societal needs in innovative ways and make a difference for individuals and families across generations. With more than 100 candidates nominated for this award, CMA was one of only 10 winners. Interestingly, the CMA was the only art museum to receive the medal this year. “The National Medal is a highly competitive honor, and the fact that Columbia has two medal winners in five years and that Richland Library was one of 15 national finalists for the 2016 National Medal for Libraries says something absolutely powerful about our community,” notes Joelle.
The difference being made in the community as a result of the efforts of the Columbia Museum of Art to expose youth to art education will have an impact for years to come, not only on children, but also on society as a whole.