The Cleveland Museum of Art hit a home run when former Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove hosted an "All-Star" video tour of its permanent collection – shown at Jacobs Field. The event was part of the museum’s effort to broaden its reach, according to this Wallace-commissioned feature article.
Photo courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art
If people came here, no matter who they are, no matter how they're dressed, no matter how many of them, no matter how few of them, no matter how many children were with them, they would absolutely find something in here that they could sit back and say...'Wow!'
-- Former Cleveland Indians Manager Mike Hargrove on his video tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art
Heavy Metal at the CMA
When the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) set out to reinstall its Armor Court and Egyptian collections, it sought to make the most of this opportunity as an ideal launch point for attracting new audiences to the facility. The exhibits, which feature fine examples of heraldic armor (including full field armor for man and horse) as well as a 2500-year-old sarcophagus, always fascinate first-time visitors and hold particular appeal for youngsters and families.
Thus was born the CMA's Convening the Community project, an effort carefully designed to draw visitors from targeted working and middle class neighborhoods in the Cleveland area. For although the CMA attracted 450,000 visitors each year, many Clevelanders - particularly from neighborhoods to the south and west of the central city -- had never set foot inside the museum.
An "All-Star" Video
Former Cleveland Indians Manager Mike Hargrove and the CMA were definitely on the same team when it came to attracting new audiences to the arts. Hargrove (who had led the Cleveland Indians to a pennant in 1997 and is now manager of the Baltimore Orioles) agreed to host a delightful video designed to be shown at viewing stations as part of an
informational exhibit about the CMA that was set up in shopping malls in the targeted communities. The video offered an engaging "tour" through the renowned museum's permanent collections including, of course, the Armor Court and Egyptian exhibits. In terms of breaking down stereotypes, the upbeat message was an undeniable success. In fact,
Hargrove's popular "All-Star Tour" eventually made its way onto the Jumbotron at Jacobs Field and into area libraries and Blockbuster stores.
View an exerpt from the video*
Convening the Community
The unique video is just one aspect of the CMA's concerted efforts to broaden its reach among local citizens and to become a meaningful part of their lives. After networking with a broad array of community leaders, the Museum convened a
community advisory council that drew heavily from targeted neighborhoods, but also included Museum trustees. Even the director of the city transit agency was on board, to ensure potential visitors had adequate transportation. From this alliance, special "community days" were established, tied to the interests of each neighborhood. In true grass-roots fashion,
community partners worked church by church, mall by mall, distributing flyers about the special program, making appearances and more.
To the CMA's delight, more than 1500 people participated in "East Cleveland Day" and "Parma (Ohio) Day" - two "community days" that included special tours, children's activities, a ceremony featuring mayors from each locale - even music by neighborhood musicians.
Based on its initial success, the dynamic partnership between the CMA and its local community continues to build. Significantly, it has also led to a more visitor-friendly environment within the facility: public, educational and interpretive programs have been re-designed to attract new visitors, and all museum staff have been trained to become more visitor-sensitive. "We have internalized our successes from Convening the Community so that this program has become standard operations now," says Kate Sellers, CMA deputy director. "Reaching out to the community with exciting permanent exhibitions and programs, and then making people feel comfortable once they are here is what we now do every day."
The results? The CMA now attracts more than 600,000 visitors per year, and membership in most targeted neighborhoods has increased - some cases, dramatically (Parma, Ohio, grew by 40%). A recent community-wide survey revealed that the CMA is the favorite museum in Cleveland, garnering 38.5% of the vote compared to its nearest competitor at 19%.
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