This is your art museum. And I am delighted and proud to share with you today that we have set course on a direction that allows us to respond to our changing times and makes it possible for you, your friends, family—all people—to see yourselves at the Museum and better understand your world through the art we hold in public trust for you.
The Museum’s staff, board, and volunteers, together with the Museum community, committed more than a year to ask the hard questions, consult with peer institutions, and study today’s evolving landscape to shape this new strategic direction, a framework for the Museum moving forward. We last released what we referred to then as a strategic plan in 2006. This is an exciting moment. Yet I want to be clear: our work does not end here. We now call on your active involvement to ensure we continue to make progress—and do so boldly.
The Museum has taken bold action in the past. Shortly before my arrival, the Museum completed its first-ever major reinstallation of the collection; added a new lakeside entrance for visitors, more places for people to gather, and an additional changing exhibition space; and introduced the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, making Milwaukee a national destination for photography, video, and light-based art. Undoubtedly the most memorable leap, however, came in 2001, with the hiring of Santiago Calatrava to design our iconic building—the United States had yet to see a work by the Spanish architect erected on its soil, let alone one that could move. But not everyone in our community feels welcome within the arms of these steel beams that rise impossibly to great heights. In turn, we will be more intentional in how we invite and welcome the residents of our city, the region, and the world to discover something great, and perhaps to imagine the impossible through the experiences they have with the art and each other here.
A quote by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton summarizes the unique power of art: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” And it is here, at your Milwaukee Art Museum, that we want you to find friends old and new, to find inspiration; to lose yourself in reflection, and to lose yourself with family while finding connection with others and their families—to feel welcome to return again, whenever the mood or moment strikes you, and so that the Museum feels like your place for socializing, for restorative quiet, for robust engagement.
This is your art museum. Our transformation is beginning. I invite you to keep watch and visit often, and tell us what you think. I invite you to join us on this journey.
Marcelle Polednik, PhD
Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director