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“For the Benefit of all the People Forever”

Since it opened its doors in 1916, the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) has sought to bring the pleasure and meaning of art to the broadest possible audience. The statement “for the benefit of all the people forever” was written into Jeptha Wade’s 1892 deed of gift for the land on which the museum stands. And it serves as the bedrock on which the institution was built, reflecting its founders’ belief that museums should be places for inspiration and for creating wonder and meaning in people’s lives. 

Today, that idea reverberates with new and poignant resonance, and for that reason, the Cleveland Museum of Art wishes to reaffirm its commitment to all visitors: “you are welcome here.” Through its programs, events, and exhibitions, the museum creates an environment for open dialogue and a richly varied, inclusive cultural experience 

“With issues of tolerance and diversity so prominent in the current national conversation, we feel it is important to emphasize the museum’s role as a welcoming place for all,” said William M. Griswold, museum director. “From the very beginning, it was important to our founders that we provide access to art from all over the world. The museum has always been free and open to the public, helping a broad audience to understand and engage with great art. We highlighted this commitment in our centennial celebration last year, and it remains as strong as ever as we embark on our next century.” 

Art represents the heritage, texture, creative problem solving, and expression of human experience. The museum collects, presents, researches, and supports the arts in order to create conversations across place and time and opens up new ways for all people to see and understand each other. 

“Art allows us to see and imagine things we would not be able to otherwise,” Griswold said. “As we face today’s challenges and uncertainties, we need to be able to imagine solutions that do not yet exist. All of our efforts are intended to inspire great ideas and foster a shared sense of hope, community, and possibility. We invite everyone to join us in the conversation.”

In affirmation of its historic mission, on March 27 the museum will unfurl new banners bearing the words “for the benefit of all the people forever” on the façade of its 1916 building. In addition, both the museum’s website and new signage will emphasize the depth of its commitment to individual expression and the interconnectedness—and interdependency—of humankind.

“The museum’s mission is as relevant and important today as it was over one hundred years ago,” Griswold noted. “It remains a place to explore history and creativity, a venue for the exchange of ideas, and an institution where neighbors can celebrate their differences and reflect on their shared humanity. In today’s increasingly fractured society, our mandate—to serve “all the people”—resonates more loudly and widely than ever before.”