Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art are launching a landmark initiative that capitalizes on their longtime collaborations as well as their strengths in scholarship, curation, conservation and education.
The new venture emerged from the vision and dedication of university trustee Joseph Keithley and his wife, Nancy, an art museum trustee. The couple has committed $15 million to realize the idea of a joint effort that advances both institutions and prepares future curators, scholars, museum directors and academic leaders.
In recognition of Nancy and Joseph’s philanthropic leadership, the dynamic and forward-thinking program will be named The Nancy and Joseph Keithley Institute for Art History.
“We feel strongly about the world-class quality of institutions in Cleveland,” Nancy and Joseph Keithley said. “We also believe collaboration increases exponentially their benefit and influence within our community, and well beyond it. We are thrilled to help catapult this partnership to a new level of global impact.”
A centerpiece of the Keithley Institute is support for the reimagined joint doctoral program that the museum and university developed together over the past few years. A recipient of a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation last year, the updated program emphasizes an “object-oriented” approach—that is, one that integrates theory and methodology with intensive, in-person study of actual pieces of art. In addition to seeing objects firsthand, students also will participate in museum internships that provide real-world experience in curation and other aspects of museum operation. In an era when digital and virtual lessons become increasingly ubiquitous, the value of an object focus becomes all the more apparent.
“Each work of art is an idiosyncratic, fascinating object in its own right,” said Catherine Scallen, chair of the university’s Department of Art History and Art and one of the co-authors of the new program. “Each one of them has its own life history—that’s why it’s very important to learn about the specific object.”
The Keithleys’ commitment will provide graduate students stipends and travel fellowships, as well as compensation for curriculum development, teaching and collection seminars. Undergraduates also will be eligible for funding for summer internships.
“We are humbled, excited and inspired by this historic commitment from Nancy and Joseph Keithley,” Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Their generosity and commitment to collaboration will advance our partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art in ways that will benefit scholars, museums and the field of art history itself for generations to come.”
The joint doctoral program between Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Museum of Art dates back to 1967. From the start, the program has drawn upon the museum’s world-class collections and training in connoisseurship, acquisitions research and exhibition development. In addition to the revitalized doctoral program, the endowment will support public and academic programming as well as joint publications that highlight the institute’s progress and impact. The commitment also will fund acquisitions and other essential needs of the museum’s Ingalls Library and Museum Archives, the third-largest art research library in the United States.
All of the efforts will fall under the strategic leadership of an institute director, also funded by the Keithleys’ gift.
“We are honored that Nancy and Joseph Keithley chose to help us realize our shared dreams of a dynamic, world-class institute,” said David Franklin, the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Their gift is not only a gift of collaboration, but also the opportunity to realize incomparable opportunities for students, faculty, museum staff and the public. We look forward to working closely with Case Western Reserve to make this an innovative program that attracts the best and brightest faculty and students from this country and around the world.”