Organized by the International Council of Museums, May 18 was International Museum Day, and more than 35,000 museums in 145 countries participated by offering free admission — something our guests have enjoyed at the Greenville County Museum of Art (GCMA) for more than 40 years.
Thanks to Greenville County taxpayers, the GCMA has never charged admission, allowing us to warmly welcome visitors from all over the world and to offer enriching, educational opportunities to underserved populations here at home.
Thousands of students of all ages visit the GCMA each year through field trips with schools, day cares, summer camps, church groups, and Scouts. In addition, large groups of seniors, out-of-state tour groups, and regional day-trippers visit each year.
Although Greenville County taxpayers support the museum’s operations and building maintenance, no public funds are provided for art purchases. It is only through the generosity of both private citizens and corporate donors in our community that more than $62 million of art has been added to Greenville’s collection through purchases and gifts over the past 25 years.
When guests visit the GCMA for the first time, many come to see the Wyeth Collection. After all, the GCMA boasts the largest public collection of Andrew Wyeth watercolors in the world. The museum’s Wyeth Collection, which includes some 50 watercolor paintings and several major temperas, totals 75 works of art. Andrew Wyeth himself wrote in a letter dated March 6, 1998, “The Greenville County Museum now has what I consider the very best collection of my watercolors in any public museum in this country.”
This year marks the centennial of Andrew Wyeth’s birth, and the GCMA is celebrating with the exhibition “Wyeth Dynasty,” which provides a remarkable retrospective of his career. The Wyeth Collection is an important part of the museum’s and Greenville’s identity, but there’s so much more to see.
At the GCMA, you’ll discover a carefully curated collection of some of the best examples of American art — art that stands the test of time and art that tells a multitude of stories.
The museum’s unrivaled “Southern Collection” explores the breadth of American art and history through the Southern experience from the colonial era to the present. Among the highlights are an exceptional collection of clay vessels created by the enslaved Edgefield potter David Drake, including poem jars, pitchers, and a butter churn.
You’ll also find one of the largest collections of works by South Carolina native William H. Johnson outside the Smithsonian.
The museum is home to one of the world’s 10 best public collections of works by America’s most renowned living artist Jasper Johns, who grew up in South Carolina. In addition, the GCMA has an outstanding collection of American impressionism and 20th-century American modernism, as well as an impressive collection of works by African-American artists.
From its extensive collection, the museum organizes a variety of changing exhibitions throughout the year, which means you can visit often — after all, it’s free. As the only museum in our area fully accredited by the Alliance of American Museums (a rigorous benchmark), the GCMA offers an array of educational and enriching experiences ranging from family art adventures and music in the galleries to artist workshops and summer camps.
Thanks to the generous support and commitment of our community, the GCMA continues to build its collection and to expand its educational reach, relevance, and impact, making it a lasting and valuable resource for all in our region.
If you’ve never visited the GCMA, or if it’s been awhile, head to our website (gcma.org), make plans to visit soon, and discover one of Greenville’s greatest (and growing) assets.
Paula Angermeier is the head of communications for the Greenville County Museum of Art. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.