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David Brashear named director of W&M’s Muscarelle Museum of Art

  • David Brashear
    New director:  David Brashear was named director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary, university officials announced.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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David Brashear was named director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary, university officials announced Thursday.

Brashear, a longtime member of the museum’s Board of Trustees, had served as the museum’s interim director since January of 2019.

“David models longstanding devotion to the Muscarelle as well as deep knowledge of its operations and value to the university,” President Katherine A. Rowe said. “William & Mary benefited when he applied these as well as other considerable strengths to the museum as interim director last year. It is a joy to welcome him as permanent director. We cannot wait to see what this gem of our institution accomplishes under his guidance.”

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.

Brashear 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. He was made an honorary W&M alumnus in 2007.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to lead the Muscarelle Museum into another period of programmatic expansion and growth,” Brashear said. “This museum has been a vibrant center of culture and community for William & Mary and the entire region, with an impact that far exceeds its scale. 

“The Muscarelle Museum has been an important part of my life for over 20 years, and I look forward to working with its talented staff, its dedicated Board, the outstanding faculty and students at W&M and the passionate donors who all care deeply about its mission.”

The 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.

As interim director, Brashear made significant strides in academic engagement, programming, financial management, art acquisition and fundraising at the museum, said Ann Marie Stock, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs. 

“In his capacity as interim director, David has excelled,” said Stock, who oversees the university’s Cultural Heritage Cluster, which includes the Muscarelle. “He has advanced university priorities in so many ways — by expanding the collection to include works by a diverse range of artists, by empowering his staff to engage with the university and regional community in new ways and by stepping up the museum’s engagement with the academic enterprise.

“Possessing the architectural knowledge and experience to guide the building project, and the administrative and management skills essential in an uncertain environment, David is ideally suited to guide the Muscarelle through this period of accelerated change.”

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

Brashear is an accomplished photographer, and his work has been featured in several museum exhibitions. He has studied architectural history at the graduate level at Columbia University and has written extensively on the subject.

In addition to his involvement at W&M, Brashear is currently a trustee and vice chair of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. 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 was most recently president of Edgewood Investors.

“I was delighted to hear that David Brashear was selected as the new director of the Muscarelle,” said Mark Hofer, director of the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation at W&M. “In his role as interim director, David was a great partner with the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation. We were happy to help to support the development of the virtual exhibition ‘RISING: The American Indian Movement and the Third Space of Sovereignty.’

“This student-created exhibit, led by faculty curator Danielle Moretti-Langholtz, is an excellent example of the kind of meaningful, experiential learning that is a hallmark of the W&M experience. We look forward to deepening our partnership with the Muscarelle under David’s direction.”

Professor of Art and Art  History Elizabeth Mead termed working with Brashear on the recent exhibition “The Adjacent Possible” during his time as interim director “extraordinary.”

“He really views the museum as an integral component of the university and believes its role is as a collaborator with our curriculum, our faculty and our students,” Mead said. “Throughout every stage of the project, David was overwhelmingly supportive.

“He made marvelous suggestions to help enhance our project and literally allowed us to turn the museum into a laboratory. I see no conceivable way ‘The Adjacent Possible’ could have been as successful without his support, his vision and his collaborative spirit.”