Museum staff and volunteers share stories of the collection in new series

Columbia, S.C. – The Columbia Museum of Art presents Focal Points, a new series of gallery talks featuring topics and themes near and dear to the hearts of the CMA staff and docent volunteers. In the series premiere on Tuesday, November 27, at 11:00 a.m., Exhibition Designer and Preparator Mike Dwyer details the careful process of planning and physically executing the reinstallation of the collection during renovations.

“Visitors are so often curious about the inner workings of the museum and the people who make it happen, and we’re happy to lift that veil,” says Joelle-Ryan Cook, CMA deputy director & director of external affairs. “With programs like Focal Points, we have room to explore ideas that we care about, personally and professionally, through a fun and accessible conversation in the galleries.”

The Focal Points series offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about the CMA collection while also getting acquainted with the talented people who work at the museum. Over his 23-year career in the curatorial department, Dwyer has spent thousands of hours in direct contact with thousands of years of art history—handling objects, maintaining galleries, and designing, installing, and deinstalling countless exhibitions. His expertise was well-utilized during the transformation of the collection galleries, a massive project undertaken from early 2017 through August 2018.

"The dismantling and reinvention of the museum’s collection galleries has been the most challenging project of my career at CMA," says Dwyer. "Full of stress, worry, and agitation, it was equally equipped with camaraderie, the satisfaction of work well done, and even a few weird dance moves."

Upcoming programs in the Focal Points series:

Tuesday, December 11: Architecture in Art. Manager of Education Glenna Barlow focuses on the styles of architecture found in the museum’s collection pieces.
Tuesday, December 18, and Wednesday, December 26: The Art of Disability. Docent Bauer Westeren focuses on the depiction of bodies that are in some way disabled. As someone with a disability, he is intrigued by bodies that are not “ideal” within art and what that art might be saying about physical limitations.
Free with membership or admission.

For more information, visit

About the CMA
The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA is undergoing a transformation funded by a successful capital campaign. Though some sections of the building will be affected during some phases of the work, the CMA remains open throughout renovations. The project is expected to be complete in late 2018. To learn more, visit

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