Betsy Broun to retire at the end of the year

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Betsy Broun smiling, with arms crossed

Betsy Broun, standing in SAAM’s Lincoln Gallery. (Photo by Tony Powell.)

Elizabeth “Betsy” Broun, who has led the American Art Museum and the Renwick since 1989, is retiring at the end of the year. Her tenure has been marked by groundbreaking exhibitions, digital innovation, new educational opportunities, and a push to broaden the Smithsonian’s collections of contemporary, folk, self-taught, African American, Latino, and new media arts.

Under her leadership, the museum has made art engaging, relevant and accessible through dynamic storytelling, connecting art to the American experience and innovative uses of technology. Her efforts have made SAAM more visitor-focused and user-friendly. The museum is a leader in distance learning, web-based resources, research databases and digital media, and its national programs for research and education serve students and educators across the country and on U.S. military bases around the world.

Betsy led and completed ambitious fundraising campaigns to renovate the museum’s two major National Historic Landmark buildings, re-envisioning them to create forward-looking environments that respect both the historical and the contemporary. The renovated Renwick Gallery’s debut exhibition, WONDER,  continues to break attendance records, with nearly half a million people coming in just five months.

In 1994, she addressed the Smithsonian’s Commission on the Future and her remarks tyhen seem prescient: “In the third century of our national experience, art could at last find a meaningful place in American life if we choose to use the objects of the past and technologies of the future to make the right connections.”


Posted: 22 April 2016
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.