Arbiters of the Arts: Greta Brunschwyler 

Millicent Rogers Museum

(Photo by Photo by Bill Curry)

A life can be full of twists and turns, some quite unexpected. Greta Brunschwyler, executive director of the Millicent Rogers Museum, grew up outside of Washington, D.C., and her father often took her and her five siblings to the Smithsonian.

“I think of myself as a Smithsonian baby,” Brunschwyler said. “It was so fun because we had free rein of the museums.” And there are great art museums: Natural History, Air and Space, the Hirsh horn, and Arts and Industry. But Brunschwyler didn’t grow up wanting to work in a museum. Brunschwyler wanted to be a veterinarian and an interior decorator. At veterinary school, though, she quickly discovered that performing operations made her turn green. And decorating was all about sales.

(Photo by Photo by Bill Curry)

“But I still loved animals and loved design so I figured zoo design wou Id be a great path.” There was, however, nowhere to study zoo design so instead she got a bachelor’s degree in studio arts and an master of fine arts in exhibition design and planning. That led to internships with the Smithso­nian, and working at museums in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and San Diego. In San Diego she learned it’s good to be in charge and set her sights on executive director jobs. Her first was at a small museum in Novato, California. She moved on to Ne­vada State Museum-Las Vegas, where she designed and oversaw the construction of the museum’s new home in the Springs Preserve. The museum is a mixture of arts, culture and history, which appealed to Brunschwyler’s belief that everything is connected. She then spent several years at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Or­egon, which weaves together culture, the arts, history and animals.

Her last job before coming to Taos was as executive director of Briar Bush, a nature center in Abington, Pennsylvania, and she loved that, too. “To make an impact on kids was an amazing experience. It was up close and personal. You got to see kids advance in the world and become scientists.” Brunschwyler had vacationed often in the Southwest and had visited Millicent Rogers Museum 20 years ago with her mother and loved it. “There’s something here, we all know, that draws you in.” When she saw a posting for the position at the museum, her partner, a financial planner whose job allows him to live anywhere, encour­aged her to apply. She loves the richness of the mu­seum’s collection and of the Taos community.

(Photo by Photo by Bill Curry)

“People have long histories here and … want to share their histories, are proud of their histories and I want to share
[that] with the people who come to Taos and the museum for just a min­ute. That’s what we are striving to do … To be more inclusive in every aspect of museum operations. We’re going to step out of the curatorial role and let the Pueblo and Hispano commu­nities choose what stories to tell, what pieces to show whether it’s ours, yours, or your friend’s.”

A self-professed museum geek, Brun­schwyler serves on museum associ­ation boards both locally and nation­ally and loves to visit museums any chance she gets. Sometimes, though, she goes camping in the Conejos where there are no museums at all.