Art museum leaders from Toledo, Detroit and Cleveland to celebrate International Museum DayWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The directors of the art museums in Toledo, Cleveland and Detroit are coming together May 18 to celebrate International Museum Day with a public forum discussing “Museums and Memory.” The forum will be moderated by art critic Judith Dobrzynski and begins at 6 p.m. in the Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA).
“International Museum Day draws a great deal of attention to museums,” said Graham W.J. Beal, director of the Detroit Institute of Art. “One would like to think it is Museum Day every day, but that’s not the way it works.”
“Anything that draws attention to museums and the value of art and creativity is a wonderful thing,” said David Franklin, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “It’s great to have that focus for one day and show people museums can change our lives as individuals and add to the value of communities. It’s nice to have that sort of birthday for the museum.”
Beal has worked at the DIA since 1999 while Franklin and Brian Kennedy, director of the TMA, have each worked at their museum since September 2010. The three directors truly put the international in International Museum Day with Kennedy hailing from Ireland, Beal from Britain and Franklin from Canada.
“The art world causes you to travel an awful lot,” Kennedy said. “Where you’re from affects your accent and a few things, but it’s really about your experience. We were all attracted to come to these places because the people are great.”
Franklin is excited for the event and hopes it is the first of many meetings between the three directors.
“We’re spoiled in this area,” he said. “We have three of the greatest comprehensive museums in the world. They have international reputations. I’d like us to interact more. We haven’t had a chance for all of us to get together yet, so this is a nice occasion. The three of us could really do more together, and that unity would be very powerful.”
The main topic for the panel is discussing how museums store memory through objects in their collection.
“The challenge of art museums today is to be relevant in a digital age,” Kennedy said. “In an age where reproduction is everywhere, how do you validate the individual object? It’s because the experience created around objects together is memorable. It’s an environment circumstantial to the museum.”
“If you lack a community spirit or a sense of your own mythology, it makes for a weaker and more boring place to live,” Franklin said. “Museums are all about memory. It’s an antidote even to boredom. Every object in a museum contains several stories. Memory in objects leads to all kinds of fascinating directions.”
Another topic is how these three museums are adjusting to the economic downturns and changing demographics of their communities.
“The impact of the past decade and the economic downturn has been tough on all three cities, because they were each major manufacturing cities,” Kennedy said. “The art collections are a reflection of the success the cities have had and symbols of their continued relevance.
“It’s changing in a rather significant way that started about 20 years ago,” Beal said. “Museums started to focus less on being a repository and more on being a social enterprise with more responsibility for making the connection between the public and the art.”
In honor of International Museum Day, TMA is offering free parking as well as free admission to the museum and all of its exhibitions.
The International Council of Museums started International Museum Day in 1977 to make the public aware of the role museums play in society.
“Museums help us to think and feel, and I think those are noble qualities,” Franklin said. “They teach us about values like variety and diversity and provide a neutral space where we can experience positive concepts. There aren’t many places left in society where that is possible.”
For more information about the TMA and International Museum Day, visit the website