William & Mary

Aaron De Groft '88 to step down as Muscarelle director at end of calendar year

David Brashear HON ’07 named interim director

Aaron De Groft '88, director of William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art, has announced he will step down from the position at the end of the calendar year. Longtime Muscarelle advocate David Brashear, who has served on the museum’s board for nearly two decades, including leading it as chair, will become interim director effective Jan. 1, 2019.

“We thank Aaron De Groft for his 13 years as director of the Muscarelle — a period that saw our museum grow substantially in national and international relevance — and wish Aaron well as he considers the next phase of his career,” said Provost Michael R. Halleran, indicating that De Groft will serve in a consulting role during the transition.  

Aaron De GroftThe university announced plans in 2016 for a new facility, The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, which will be funded by private gifts. The center will be home to the Muscarelle Museum of Art. The provost also noted that the timing of De Groft’s decision will allow the next director to be fully involved in this important project. 

“We are also very thankful that David Brashear has agreed to lead the museum during this interim period,” Halleran said. “David brings to this role a great deal of knowledge about the museum and the university, and I know he will serve as an excellent bridge during the transition.”

The Muscarelle Museum of Art, which opened in 1983, was established with the mission of advancing art and artists, building a dynamic and vibrant community on campus, promoting thought-provoking dialogue and encouraging diverse and creative thinking. It has provided valuable research opportunities and offered curatorial experience to W&M students.

De Groft has served as director of the museum since 2005. Exhibitions during his time include loans from the Medici Collections, landscape paintings from the Uffizi, Golden Age Dutch landscapes from Dulwich Picture Gallery, Michelangelo drawings from the Casa Buonarroti and Caravaggio paintings from Italian collections. In 2015, the Muscarelle organized the major exhibition “Leonardo: The Idea of Beauty.” In 2017, the Muscarelle hosted “Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting from the Medici to the Bonfires of the Vanities.”

"This has been a tremendous opportunity to serve my alma mater and to give back just a bit of what it has given me,” said De Groft,” adding that he plans to pursue other career interests, including entrepreneurship opportunities related to his experience with traveling museum exhibitions. “I want to thank everyone, including members of the Muscarelle Museum of Art Board, our staff, student interns, fellows and university colleagues, that have helped make the museum what it is today, an internationally recognized art museum. I look forward to pursuing many new things in the future but will always have the Muscarelle and William & Mary in my fondest of memories."

David BrashearAdded Robert Roberson, chair of the museum foundation’s board of trustees, “The museum made great strides during Aaron’s tenure and he will be missed. We will maintain the momentum on so many initiatives, most importantly realizing his vision for an appropriate, new museum space. We are delighted to have David Brashear move us forward during this important time."

Brashear, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and then received an MBA from Harvard, has extensive experience with the museum, the arts and educational institutions.

Brashear was made an honorary William & Mary alumnus in 2007 and has served on the Muscarelle Board of Trustees since 1999, serving as chair from 2004 to 2008. Since 2013, he has chaired the capital campaign for the museum.

Brashear is an accomplished photographer and his work has been featured in several museum exhibitions. He has studied architectural history at Columbia University and has written extensively on the subject. In addition to his involvement at William & Mary, Brashear is currently a trustee and vice chair of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and is chair of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. He formerly served as president of the Bronxville Board of Education and vice chair of the WHRO-Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association. A longtime commercial real estate investor and developer, Brashear is president of Edgewood Investors.

“It’s an honor to be asked to serve in this interim role at the Muscarelle,” Brashear said. “It’s a critically important time in the life of the museum and the future is extremely bright. I thank Aaron for his time as director and for his partnership over the last 13 years and in ensuring a smooth transition.”

The director of the museum reports to the provost. Halleran said William & Mary will conduct a national search for De Groft’s successor, with the timing to be decided in the spring.