Director’s Letter

Photo: Mitch Carr

Photo: Mitch Carr

Dear Friends of Cranbrook Art Museum,

I am thrilled to let you and the world know that Cranbrook Art Museum was reaccredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 2013.  While there are an estimated 17,500 museums in the United States, only 1,000 currently are accredited—the highest national recognition achievable by an American museum.  And in the case of Cranbrook, we have proudly held this honor since the 1970s, when AAM first launched its accreditation program.

The most grueling part of the reaccreditation process (yes, my staff reminds me that it was, indeed, exhausting) was the preparation of a nearly 200-page self-study.  Divided into ten sections, the self-study requires a museum to document and assess all aspects of its operation, from its mission to its audience and everything in between.  At the end of this document, which is reviewed by the Visiting Committee and AAM’s Accreditation Commission, they allow the museum’s director—in one page or less—to tell them why his or her museum matters and what gives the staff the greatest pride.”  For my inaugural Director’s Letter on our Web site, I want to share this statement with you.  Written for the members of the Visiting Committee, who spent two days with us in October 2012, it describes Cranbrook Art Museum’s unique relationship with Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Near the end of a tour through Cranbrook Art Museum, visitors are encouraged to pass through a set of glass doors and enter the Artist’s Lounge. Designed as a reading room, the space also offers a stunning view into Cranbrook Academy of Art’s New Studios Building, designed by the renowned Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and dedicated in 2002. Through the three-story solid glass wall of the building, our audiences have a glimpse into the creative world of three of the Academy’s departments: Metalsmithing, Ceramics, and Fiber. Quite literally standing on a bridge that links the studios and the galleries, this is the place where visitors encounter both process and product, an experience that defines the mission of Cranbrook Art Museum.

While most art schools long ago separated their museums and studio programs, Cranbrook Art Museum remains proud of its close association with Cranbrook Academy of Art.  What other institutions decided was a liability, Cranbrook celebrates as one of its greatest assets. This bond, in turn, is reflected in all of the Art Museum’s programs, from the curatorial method by which its Grand Reopening exhibition, “No Object Is an Island: New Dialogues with the Cranbrook Collection,” was conceived–a process that began not in the museum, but in the studios, through a dialogue with the ten Artists-in-Residence that head the Academy’s ten disciplines–to its “Ideas and Process” student-led tours, which culminate with a visit to the students’ own studios at the Academy.

Twelve years after our last AAM reaccreditation visit, the 2012 Visiting Committee will see a radically transformed institution.  They will see the results of Cranbrook Educational Community’s $22 million capital investment in its Art Museum, including the meticulously restored 1942 Eliel Saarinen-designed building (after all, we take our designation as a National Historic Landmark very seriously) and the new award-winning Collections Wing, both of which are supported by a new state-of-the-art climate control system. While the restored galleries will continue to allow us to bring the best of contemporary art and design to our many audiences at Cranbrook, with the new Collections Wing we have created a revolutionary new museum model by integrating storage and education. The Art Museum’s collection is now visible—and accessible—to students, scholars, and visitors. Together, the galleries and the vaults have become one integrated teaching and learning machine, an educational resource like no other.  And if that was not enough, the Board of Governors and patrons of Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum have ensured the financial stability of the Academy and Art Museum with a commitment of $22 million in new endowment funds.

When the Visiting Committee came to Cranbrook in 1999, they were impressed but said we had some work to do.  The staff and volunteers that love Cranbrook Art Museum rose to this challenge.  While there remains work to do, we cannot wait to show you what we have accomplished!

And in case you also have not seen our restored galleries and new Collections Wing, my staff and I cannot wait to share it with you during your next visit to Cranbrook Art Museum.  You will be amazed.

Best regards from Cranbrook,

Gregory Wittkopp
Cranbrook Art Museum and
Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research