Baltimore Museum of Art administrators yesterday announced a new 10-year strategy outlining plans to transform the institution into a showcase for 19th-century, modern and contemporary art and establish its reputation as a center for scholarship on Henri Matisse, whose paintings, sculpture and works on paper form a cornerstone of its collections.
The document, which draws upon 18 months of research, also describes the museum's desire to attract a more diverse audience, become a regional tourist destination, present stronger educational programs and build its endowment.
"On the eve of our 90th anniversary in 2004, we have sharpened our focus to become one of the nation's most dynamic centers for art of the modern era, as well as a more vibrant and welcoming destination for both the community and cultural tourists," BMA director Doreen Bolger said in a written statement yesterday.
Since stepping into the directorship in 1998, Bolger has touted the benefits of building exhibitions around the museum's permanent collections rather than relying upon traveling "blockbuster" shows to increase attendance and bolster ticket sales. She also has worked to strengthen the museum's ties to Baltimore's artistic community and has advocated collaboration between cultural institutions as well as among staff members.
The strategic plan - developed through a process that included consultations with community leaders, artists, educators, representatives of arts organizations and museum board members and staff - follows Bolger's lead.
Reiterating her goal of highlighting the museum's own resources, Bolger said yesterday during an interview: "We want not occasional blockbusters but layers of exhibitions and programs that will give visitors a good experience at the museum."
The new plan, intended to guide the BMA over the next 10 to 15 years, was overseen by Nancy L. Pressly & Associates, a Washington consulting firm, and was paid for with funds donated by outgoing board chair Charles W. Newhall III.
"The strategic planning process that we've just gone through propels us on an exciting course for the 21st century," Newhall said. "The opportunity to bring people of different backgrounds together and make art a part of their lives is right before us, and we have the commitment and leadership to achieve this vision."
Bolger said a strong contemporary art program was key to attracting younger audiences. The museum's announcement comes a month after it hired a new curator, Chris Gilbert, to oversee its contemporary art collections. Gilbert, who is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore in August, is stepping down from a curatorship at Iowa's Des Moines Art Center.
In addition, the BMA is working to attract a larger African-American audience through acquisitions of works by African-American artists. Over the last two years, the museum has purchased more than 30 works by African-American artists, ranging from 19th-century sculpture and painting by Edmonia Lewis and Henry Ossawa Tanner to contemporary installation and video works by Kara Walker and Lorna Simpson.
The museum also plans to reinstall its African, Asian, Oceanic and Native American art collections in renovated galleries and to publish a catalog of its African art next year, which will be the first new publication on that collection since 1954.
In tandem with these efforts, the BMA hopes to enhance its educational programs with new exhibition activity centers and interactive technologies aimed at families, and through collaborations with area schools, colleges and universities.
The blueprint also calls for increased revenues generated by a beefed-up museum gift shop, museum space rentals and exhibitions produced by the museum staff that will travel to other institutions.