Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Bulletin of the Museum 1920-1929

Continuing leafing through the series of Bulletins of The Cleveland Museum of Art from where we left off after Our Last Visit's 1915-April 1920 Tour, we find ourselves at:

July 1920. Seventh Year. Number Seven. Ninety-one years ago, Frederic Allen Whittling, the Museum's first Director, writes that "[...]The public is expecting the art museum to become not only home to the Muses, but the interpreter of beauty in all its forms. This widening vista of what an art museum may mean in its community, has already brought about amazing changes in the conception of the proper functions of the museums of art. They are becoming more than places where objects of beauty are preserved. They are becoming places of beauty and inspiration themselves."

I pause here to interject that these words could be called almost prophetic for the renovation in general new Atrium currently under construction at the Museum specifically, but continuing: "For today we are realizing more than ever before that the most beautiful life is that which is lovely in itself and in its personal relations is so much a part of the community that it enhances its surroundings while it gains new beauty therefrom."

Mr. Whittling concludes by noting the importance of "awakening the spirit of modern men, women, and children to a further realization of the part a love of beauty must play in a well balanced life"

To that end a short entry in the journal describes that small portions of the museum's collections are on display in specially designed cases in 20 Cleveland branch libraries, some Cleveland Heights schools, and the hope that this may be broadened to more schools. I wonder if this program is in any way still existent, it sounds like a great way to bring art to the people.

A photo shows a much sparser -- but easily distinguished Armor Court; still one of the museum's top draws. Many credit the interest, then and now, to Cleveland's manufacturing roots.

October 1920. Seventh Year. Number 8. An insert flutters out from between the pages titled "Sunday Entertainments for Young People at the Cleveland Museum of Art," listing a schedule of plays and films in the Auditorium (which has not yet picked up the Gardner) prefix.

Prospective patrons are instructed to "[t]ake the Euclid Car to East Boulevard or the East 105th Car to Payne Avenue and Walk East through Wade Park to the Museum." The University Circle name of the Museum's home came from a street car turnaround located at Euclid and East 107th -- I haven't found when that turnaround disappeared, but it's obvious Cleveland's street car system is still in full swing at this point.

A group of anonymous donors have presented the museum with $250,000 for the establishment of a department of Music and the acquisition of a memorial organ and tablet for the Auditorium. Their names will be revealed when the Organ is installed: The McMyler Memorial Organ was cleaned and revoiced as part of the museum's ongoing renovation.

Prices in the museum's Lunch Room have risen: Lunch is now $0.80, afternoon tea $0.60, and dinner (on lecture nights, with reservation) is $1.50. Shocking, right?

December, 1921. Eighth Year. Number 10. The museum's membership totals 4,684. The Museum's events list includes Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 47 in a lecture series on the appreciation of Chamber Music with Beryl Rubenstein. A composer, pianist, teacher, and --eventually--veteran, Mr. Rubenstein joined the faculty of the naescent Cleveland Institute of Music earlier in that year; the institution having been founded only the year prior. In 1932, he would take over the directorship of that institution and serve -- with a breif interuption for enlistment in World War II -- until his death in 1952.

Lunch: $0.75; Tea: $0.40; Dinner $1.25.

January, 1922. Ninth Year. Number 1. There is a plea for patrons with suitable materials to consider donating them to the Library, as the cost building a collection to include the necessary back journals is an expensive undertaking, and some are both difficult and expensive. For comparison, as of June 30th, 2010, the library held 456,105 volumes and in the first six months of 2011 -- 89 years later -- the library has cataloged over 4,200 new items.

Total attendance from the date the Museum building opened, June 7, 1916, to December 7, 1922 was 1,634,150, or approximately 251,000 per year if my math can be trusted. Today, the museum's annual attendance is 335,262 in the galleries plus 406,124 patrons served through education and public programs*

The trustees announce their hope that by the end of 1922 membership will reach 10,000; history will prove this goal optimistic. The organ is still under construction and the director's note explores: "The visitor to the museum usually takes away as much as his experience has prepared him to absorb. The aim is to increase in every possible way the attractiveness of the message the objects have to give."

January, 1926. Thirteenth Year. Number 1. Prices are no longer published for the Lunch Room, and membership tallies 5,023. There is a plea for members as the approved budget exceeds 1925s by nearly $10,000 and this difference is best made up through member's contributions. While Severance Hall may still be a few years in the future, John L. Severance is elected Vice President of the Museum's board.

A picture shows art displayed in a gallery: The in the intervening years the mounts have changed but it otherwise would not shock a time traveller.

June, 1926. Thirteenth Year. Number 6. After slipping in March, Membership is back up to 5,087 -- still well short of the board's optimistic 1922 goal. "informal" organ recitals are available Sundays at 5:15.

December, 1926. Thirteenth Year. Number 10. Turning attention outdoors, The Bulletin announces that Mrs. Windsor T. White has assumed the entire cost of the Euclid Avenue Terrace of what is now known as the Fine Arts Garden, allowing the Garden Club to focus on other areas of the Museum's "park foreground" and "much" of the grading has been finished. Today, even with signs of construction punctuating the view, the Fine Arts Garden, with the Euclid Avenue Terrace and the Lagoon make for a spectacular front yard for the museum.

October, 1929. Sixteenth Year. Number 8. The last in the cache from the roaring '20s, this issue of The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art was published in the same month as the Stock Market Crash of 1929--the event most identify as triggering the Great Depression. If the Bulletin knows of the impending trouble, though, it keeps the secret well-hidden. In fact this issue is pretty sparse, one take away: Near the close of the decade, membership totals 6,365.


*- Based on the annual report for Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2010; the latest figures I have available.

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