January 2018

On May 23, 1973, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art opened its doors for the first time, and we have proudly remained “free and open to the public” ever since. At the ceremony, architect I. M. Pei described his vision to design a building with high visibility that took advantage of breathtaking views while respecting the rectangular form of the historic buildings framing the Arts Quad. While our building has had its admirers (and a few detractors), our mission to introduce audiences to art from across time and cultures has never wavered.

Thanks to the generosity of Evalyn E. Milman ’60 and Stephen E. Milman ’58, we will celebrate our 45th anniversary this year with a new publication intended to guide our visitors to a fresh understanding of our permanent collection. The publication and an anniversary exhibition call attention to what we collect, why we collect what we do, and how each object plays a role in stimulating interchange and inspiration for all audiences.

The Johnson’s founding statement outlined our ambitions to develop a collection, organize and host exhibitions, and provide educational programs. These goals remain as important as ever, but we also seek to respond creatively to new directions in Cornell’s curriculum, and to encourage a global approach to experiencing art. The Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography, Cornell’s first dedicated curator of photography, answers both of these needs, by delving into the university’s rich photo collections, both at the Museum and in the Library, and helping Cornell faculty to embed such visual materials ever more thoroughly into their curricula.

Last fall, the Museum completed a new five-year strategic plan, a map of our current aspirations and goals. One core component is to develop new ways to collaborate with Cornell as it grows both here in Ithaca and at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City. We have actively participated in Cornell Tech’s visual arts projects from the beginning, helping to preserve (and then exhibit) the historic murals from Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and then assisting in the selection of artists whose work now enlivens the new campus. Our current exhibition Matthew Weinstein: The Living End, integrates a new work created during a Cornell Tech \Art fellowship. 

Museums are collaborative and ever-changing spaces, looking ahead to uncharted territories while celebrating rich histories. We are grateful to all who have been on this journey with us, and we look forward to your continued company in the years to come. 

Stephanie Wiles Johnson Museum Cornell

Stephanie Wiles
The Richard J. Schwartz Director