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    04.01.16 Claudine K. Brown ’85, Leader in Arts and Education, Dies at 67
    Claudine K. Brown
    Photo credit: Amanda Lucidon

    Claudine K. Brown ‘85, Assistant Secretary for Education and Access for the Smithsonian, died March 17.

    Brown spent her entire career involved in arts and education. She joined the Smithsonian in 1990 as director of the National African-American Museum Project, where she coordinated the efforts of advisory committees that considered the role of the Smithsonian in the development of a national museum devoted to exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. She developed the Institution’s final study on the project and a program plan for the proposed museum. In 1991, she became the deputy assistant secretary for the arts and humanities and developed policy for many Smithsonian museums.

    She left the Smithsonian in 1995 to serve as the director of the arts and culture program at the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York from 1995 to 2010. During her tenure, she positioned the organization as a leading arts grantmaker that supports institutions that are committed to excellence, diversity and community involvement. She worked to strengthen community-based arts education programs, which included supporting young people acquiring creative and technical skills using new media. She returned to the Smithsonian in 2010 as Director of Education, and later Assistant Secretary for Education and Access.

    From 1977 to 1990, Brown worked at the Brooklyn Museum in various capacities -- museum educator (1977–1982), manager of school and community programs (1982–1984) and assistant director for government and community relations (1985) – where she built a vibrant and diverse community around the museum’s programming.

    She also spent more than 20 years as a faculty advisor and instructor in the Leadership in Museum Education Program at Bank Street Graduate School of Education, where she worked with some of the preeminent museum evaluators, educators and thinkers in the field.

    Brown said that she attended Brooklyn Law School to have a better grounding in the legal aspects of artist advocacy. “Communities are really important to me,” she said in a 2010 interview. “I have always been interested in how large institutions interact and engage with their communities. The process of having to marshal facts and examine what is in dispute and what is on the table is a great skill, no matter what path you choose as a professional.”

    Brown earned her bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute in New York City and master’s degree in museum education from Bank Street College of Education.

    She is survived by her sons, Gibran Khalil Brown and Sangere Ebon Brown, several grandchildren, a large extended family, and many beloved friends and colleagues.

    Read the Smithsonian’s obituary for Claudine K. Brown.

    Read the Law School’s 2010 profile of Claudine K. Brown.