Established in 1997, the Cleveland Museum of Art's (CMA) Community Advisory Council was organized with the express purpose of helping the institution enhance its visibility and reach out to a wide variety of constituencies. Its goal is to help the museum understand the realities of the many local communities it serves and learn how best to attract new visitors from these neighborhoods.

Council members, who meet quarterly, are carefully selected to provide balance to the entire group. Varying in age and ethnicity, and hailing from different areas of the city, they represent city councils, churches, public libraries, cable systems, businesses, community development agencies - even the police department - as well as the museum. Each member's job is to serve as a resource to the museum, providing advice and counsel about his or her respective neighborhood so the CMA can better communicate with - and learn from - different audiences.

"Essentially, it's our job to help the museum present itself and its various collections in as appealing a manner as possible," says Council Co-chair Anita Brindza, who is executive director of Cudell Improvement, Inc., an economic development organization.

While the Council is credited with helping the CMA launch its successful "Community Days" - special events tailored for specific Cleveland neighborhoods - it has also become involved in other areas. For example, members helped re-design the map featured in the Museum's informational brochure. "We changed the way it was laid out to follow a more realistic sequence of the Museum's floor plan," says Brindza. "We also indicated where there are rest stations and places for people to have lunch. We felt it was important that visitors see there are areas in which they can stop, rest and just enjoy the atmosphere."

Brindza and her colleagues also became actively involved in several exhibitions. For example, they suggested the development of a glossary of terms to accompany the museum's show on Byzantine art, as well as the telling of stories that complemented each piece featured in the show. "Those kinds of touches make it a more welcoming experience and less intimidating for 'first-timers'," she notes.

Other Council responsibilities have included:

  • Previewing the Hargrove video before its completion to make editing suggestions
  • Serving as a focus group for the museum's Sight & Sound audio tour
  • Helping to arrange Speakers Bureau engagements
  • Organizing the Diego Rivera exhibition committee
  • Linking the CMA to community projects, from the Mayor's Hispanic Heritage Celebration to the statewide library conference.

Like other Council members, Brindza finds that her Museum activities have become an extension of her professional life. "It gives me another opportunity, as a representative of the Museum, to help people in our community avail themselves of a wonderful resource right in their city."

Community Partners and Projects