Strategic Plan: Making Art Matter (2017)

For more than a hundred years, the Cleveland Museum of Art has been a cornerstone of its community and a leader among arts institutions nationwide. The museum’s recent physical expansion, world-class collection, outstanding staff, and generous supporters have positioned it for a second century of solid growth.

The environment in which museums operate has changed, however, and those changes have brought with them formidable new challenges. The market for outstanding works of art is very different today from that in which the museum assembled its collection, colossal prices having eclipsed our former preeminence in this domain. Audiences are skewing older, and it is imperative that the museum adopt new strategies to engage younger visitors and underserved communities. Traditional methods of display and interpretation, which presuppose a degree of familiarity with the broad outlines of art history, no longer resonate with many current and potential visitors.

This plan—the outcome of almost a year of substantive conversation among trustees and staff, as well as with external stakeholders—articulates the museum’s response to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of us.

It lays out new approaches to the acquisition, care, exhibition, and interpretation of the works of art we hold in public trust.

It formulates a series of initiatives through which the museum will leverage the power of place to deepen visitors’ engagement with art and culture. New strategies will maximize the impact of our extended campus, ranging from our historic main building and adjacent Fine Arts Garden to a new public park just to the west of the museum; the property formerly occupied by the Cleveland Institute of Art, which we now own with our long-standing partner Case Western Reserve University; our Community Arts program, with its headquarters on Cleveland’s near west side; and the Transformer Station, a promised gift to the museum from the Bidwell Foundation.

Perhaps above all, the plan focuses on ways to make art meaningful to all audiences: new and existing, nonspecialist and scholarly, young and old, traditional and nontraditional, regardless of whether they are already familiar with art or art museums.

Finally, it addresses ways that we will strengthen our financial position while enhancing the organizational culture that lies at the core of our success.

Our second century has immense potential. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure that the Cleveland Museum of Art remains not only one of the world’s great museums but also a beacon, facilitating access for all those in Northeast Ohio and beyond to the history of the human experience as it is expressed through art.

William M. Griswold, Director and President


Vision, Mission, and Promise

Our vision

To be a global leader among museums.

Our mission

The Cleveland Museum of Art creates transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.

Our promise

The Cleveland Museum of Art offers dynamic experiences that illuminate the power and enduring relevance of art in today’s global society. The museum builds, preserves, studies, and shares its outstanding collections of art from all periods and parts of the world, generating new scholarship and understanding, while serving as a social and intellectual hub for its community.

The mission, values, and goals of the museum will be at the forefront of all our decisions and will be the guidepost for allocating our resources.


Our Organizational Values

  • Be a community anchor and a beacon for the visual arts.
  • Build an audience-centered culture.
  • Seek knowledge and generate new scholarship in the service of humanity.
  • Recognize and celebrate the value of diversity.
  • Be a strong and reliable partner, and cultivate collaborative relationships.
  • Embrace thoughtful risk-taking and experimentation.
  • Communicate openly and hold ourselves accountable to one another, our supporters, and all our audiences.


Our Leadership Values

  • We will lead by example and always be guided by the museum’s mission.
  • Lead with courage tempered by humility.
  • Be responsive, and listen and communicate clearly and consistently.
  • Be transparent about our decisions and committed to fairness and accountability.
  • Value constructive inquiry and embrace diversity of thought.
  • Honor dedication and diverse expertise, and value collaboration.
  • Encourage innovation and make room for risk-taking.

Measures of Success

By 2027 . . .

Art Acquisition

Augment the collection with the purchase, gift, and bequest of works of art valued at $1 billion within the next ten years


Within five years, maintain four active sites: the museum, Fine Arts Garden, Community Arts Center, and Transformer Station

Within ten years, create a fifth: a dynamic new educational facility operated jointly with CWRU

Audience and Engagement

Increase number of on-site visits from 630,000 to 1 million annually, of which 300,000 will be to special exhibitions

Increase number of virtual visits from 1.5 million to 5 million annually

Ensure at least 90% of all visitors are satisfied or very satisfied with the overall museum experience


Increase endowment to $1.25 billion

Double annual contributed revenue from $7.5 million to $15 million

Double annual earned revenue from $1.2 million to $2.4 million

Organizational Culture

Improve employee satisfaction to 90%, becoming one of Northeast Ohio’s Top Workplaces

Strategies and Objectives

Twilight in the Wilderness (detail), 1965.233

1984.1927 (detail)
The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake (detail), 1984.1927

Budget and Human Resource Implications

The total additional funds required to implement this plan over the next five years, other than for art acquisitions, is $52.2 million, with an increase of up to 28 new staff positions.

The $52.2 million reflects the following sources and uses of funds:

Revenue changes

  • $7.1 million in increased revenue, both contributed and earned
  • $5 million decrease in revenue from reduced spending from the endowment

Expense changes

  • $24 million increase in operating costs
  • Salary and benefits: $10.1 million
  • Programming: $13.9 million
  • $25.3 million in start-up and project costs
  • $4.9 million for 10% contingency

By Year 5, the annual operating budget will increase by $6.9 million (excluding C.O.L.A increases):

  • Increase in annual revenue by $2 million (contributed and earned)
  • Decrease in annual revenue of $1.9 million due to changing the spending rule for operating draw from 5.5% to 5.0%
  • Increase in operating costs of $6.4 million for (a) salary and benefits: $2.6 million for 22–28 positions and (b) programming: $3.8 million
  • Increase in operating costs of $0.6 million as a 10% contingency on operating expenses

The Process

From January through September of 2017, more than four hundred members of the CMA’s extended community participated in thousands of conversations in over one hundred meetings. For the first time in more than a decade, the CMA community came together in an extended dialogue to chart the museum’s future, as well as to make sense of its history and to map its current work.

This communal, extended dialogue was delightful, exhausting, challenging, and transformative. The staff and Board pondered priorities together. Volunteers shared their joyful first connections with the museum and their hopes for an institution that they love so much. Community leaders expressed a deep admiration for the museum’s success and hoped that its success might be shared more broadly with smaller organizations.

Moving from broad brainstorming in group sessions to more refined ideas and a crisper focus, the final editing of the plan was undertaken by the Executive Team, who had the challenge of honoring the community’s input while deciding on priorities and further refining ideas.

This plan is the result of all those labors: a transformative engagement in its own right.

With Gratitude

The following groups made this plan possible:

  • Staff of the museum, led by William Griswold
  • Staff Strategic Planning Committee, facilitated by Laura Freebairn-Smith (OPG)
  • Board Strategic Planning Committee, chaired by Scott Mueller
  • Executive Team, led by William Griswold
  • Board of Trustees, chaired by Peter Raskind
  • Projections Team, co-led by Ed Bauer and Russ Klimczuk
  • Volunteers and community leaders, in focus groups and other forms of dialogue
  • Experts in the field, in interviews
  • Organizational Performance Group consulting team