It is with great sadness that we announce the passing Carolyn Hill, retired executive director of Oklahoma City Museum of Art, who died in Oklahoma City on May 12, 2010 following an extended illness. She was 72. Carolyn will forever be remembered for her lifelong love, passion, and achievements in the arts and for leaving behind her indelible mark on the fabric our community.
A native Oklahoman, Carolyn received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma then completed post-graduate studies at The Julliard School, New York, and The Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria. Her interest in the arts extended beyond music, and she continued her studies in art history at major European museums during several summers abroad.
She spent more than 30 years in New York City, where her professional career focused on the arts and arts education. She taught music and was director of the art and music department at the United Nations International School, music director and conductor of the Livingston Symphony Orchestra, and president and director of the Carolyn Hill Gallery.
She returned to Oklahoma City in 1993 to care for her aging mother and was appointed executive director of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 1994. During her tenure, she was instrumental in raising the funds for the Museum’s move from its location at Fair Park to the Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, as well as the funds for the purchase of 18 glass installations by Dale Chihuly, the largest collection in the world. She also brought national recognition to the Museum with the establishment of film and education programs and outstanding international exhibitions, including the blockbuster exhibition Roman Art from the Louvre.
“Through her passion for the arts, strong leadership and bold vision, Carolyn Hill transformed the Oklahoma City Museum of Art from a small museum at the fairgrounds into a vibrant and very important cultural component of our city and state. Equally adept at promoting Roman Art from the Louvre or NBA basketball, Carolyn played a major role in our collective effort to elevate Oklahoma City to the next level,” said Frank Hill, chairman of the Museum’s board of trustees.
Carolyn retired as executive director of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in December 2008. Upon stepping down, she wrote: “I have been more than fortunate to have worked with a dedicated board and staff to advance the Museum’s development. It has been serendipity that these years have coincided with the City’s renaissance. I have every confidence that the Museum’s best days lie ahead.”
Revered by her staff, patrons and friends, Carolyn was the recipient of the By-liners Award for Arts in 1997, the Governor’s Arts Award in 2001 and the Stanley Draper Award for Community Excellence in 2003, and was inducted in The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Wall of Fame in 2008.
Carolyn was preceded in death by her parents, Virgil and Flora Hill, and her brother, Russell Hill. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Lois Hill, niece Debra Zobel, and cousins Philip Waters, Terri Gillick, Steven Knapp and Scott Knapp. Carolyn and her family and friends will be forever grateful to her dedicated caregivers who helped make her life meaningful during her illness.
A funeral service will be held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 127 NW 7th Street in downtown Oklahoma City, on Wednesday, May 19, 10:00 a.m. A reception will be held at St. Paul’s immediately following the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City, OK, 73102.