We are pleased to introduce For the Benefit of All the People, a thoroughly revised and updated version of the museum’s 2017 strategic plan, Making Art Matter.
It has been five years since we announced the previous iteration of the plan, and during that period we have accomplished many of the goals it laid out. We have made significant additions to the museum’s collection, launching a new International Council, securing the largest gift of art to the museum since 1958 (the Keithley Collection), and diversifying our holdings with the acquisition of hundreds of works by women and artists of color. We have reimagined multiple galleries, incorporating new works and new interpretive approaches, while such exhibitions as Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (2018) and Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain (2021–22) have enthralled audiences—the latter show breaking new ground in the application of technology to the museum experience.
We have completed and begun to implement a Grounds Master Plan, creating a new public park to the west of the museum (the Smith Family Gateway), and another, in collaboration with Case Western Reserve University, to the east. The Community Arts Center contemplated in the 2017 plan is now fully operational. Additionally, in 2018, the CMA completed the first comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan ever published by a major art museum in this country.
Attendance reached a new record in 2018, and we seemed well on our way to achieving our goal of one million visitors, when in March 2020, the museum abruptly had to close due to the pandemic. There followed a period of social unrest sparked in part by the murder of George Floyd. With it came a shift in the public’s expectations of institutions of all kinds, including museums. The passage of five years since the creation of our last plan—together with our accomplishments to date and all the aforementioned changes—prompted us to take a fresh look at our opportunities as well as our challenges, and to craft new approaches to amplifying our impact throughout the community that we serve and beyond.
Our mission, vision, and values have not changed. Nor has the conceptual framework we developed in connection with the first iteration of the plan, which asserted that the role of the museum is to bring together art, place, and audience to create engagement and inspire wonder. We could not hope to achieve that fundamental goal without the human and financial resources that are critical components of this as well as the previous version.
For our current strategic plan refresh, we engaged the whole board and every member of staff. What is remarkable is the degree of consensus that rapidly emerged among the members of this diverse group. The new plan takes the audience-centered approach that was foundational to Making Art Matter one step further, arguing that we must be more directly responsive to the needs of all those whom we serve, both on-site and in the virtual realm.
We must extend the scope of our world-class collection, in order that all audiences may at once see themselves and discover the art and culture of others when they explore our galleries or visit online. We must augment our capacity to study, care for, and present the works we hold in trust for the public. We must adopt new approaches to communicating the relevance of the museum’s holdings, using cutting-edge technology to bring art to life for the broadest possible audience. We must continue to enhance the visitor experience, affirming the welcome we extend to everyone who walks through our doors and providing joyful and enriching encounters with art for schoolchildren, teens, college and university students, families, and older adults. We must engage the entire community, within and outside our walls, leveraging such assets as our Community Arts Center, Transformer Station, and Education Art Collection, while assiduously diversifying our exhibitions and programs, staff, audience, and field. Finally, we must nurture our staff and, at the same time, secure the financial resources we need if we are to safeguard the CMA’s future, so that we may remain a community anchor, a beacon for the visual arts, and one of the world’s foremost museums.
Thank you for your support of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Scott C. Mueller, Chair, Board of Trustees
William M. Griswold, Director and President