The Columbia Museum of Art is located at the corner of Main and Hampton Street in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. It contains over 7,000 examples of European and American fine art dating from the 14th century through to the 20th century. The museum opens from 10am to 5pm every day except Sundays (1pm to 5pm) and Mondays when it remains closed.
The original Columbia Museum of Art was opened to the public in 1950 and was housed elsewhere in the city. Then it acted as a showcase for art, natural history, and science with a planetarium and was the city's premier cultural institution in the 1950s and 60s. As the size of the art collections and costs grew, the need for more space grew more critical to the survival of the museum, and so it had to move to a new site and refocus its work purely on art.
In 1998 the museum moved to its current site in downtown Columbia. It attracts over 6,000 visitors each month to view the large art collection spread over 20,000 square feet of gallery space. The current building has workspaces, art studios, 150-seat public auditorium, an art library, a souvenir shop and public reception spaces.
There are important collections of Renaissance and Baroque art by artists such as Botticelli, Boucher, Canaletto, Tintoretto, and many others. The museum has a substantial collection of work from the 19th century too, including a painting by Monet called L'lle Aux Orties and the winged image of Eos by Giverny and Evelyn De Morgan. More recent decorative art and sculpture from the last century is also on display here.
A striking feature in front of the museum entrance is the Keenan Fountain and Apollo's Cascade, which was created by well known American sculptor Rodney Carroll. This is a 27 foot sculpture fountain commissioned by the museum, which was dedicated in September 2007. An abstract sculpture made from many metals and alloys with interactive water features, the fountain is named after the Keenan family, who had strong business connections in Columbia and contributed much to the city.
The Lorick Library is part of the museum and can be used for research but does not lend books out. It is the largest library of its kind in South Carolina with some 14,000 volumes. Appointments have to be made in advance for visitors to be able to use the library.
There is a strong education program at the museum as well with a variety of workshops and art classes available for people of all ages. Fun events and summer camps are also on offer as opportunities for families to experience art together. School programs offer training to students through nationally recognized courses.
Other special events are shown at the museum to entertain guests such as masked balls, cabarets or a variety of performing arts. The Lee Alexander Lorick Auditorium and the Bell South Orientation Gallery provide visitors with lectures and films about the exhibits at the museum. Alternatively guided tours are provided, which can take between 30 minutes and one hour.