Lehigh University’s art museum is among 18 U.S. institutions to receive prestigious grant from IMLS, the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums.
Lehigh University Art Galleries is one of 18 institutions in the U.S. to receive a prestigious federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The “Museums Empowered” grant will support the museum’s work over the next two years to create and implement a strategic plan; train staff in outcomes-based, visitor-centered practices; and bring guest experts to Lehigh. Staff, who will collaborate with an external consultant, will also meet with colleagues at peer institutions in New York City and Philadelphia and share the art museum’s work at a national conference.
The aim, LUAG Director William B. Crow, said, is to build capacity, increase impact and better serve the galleries’ diverse audiences, which include college students, faculty and staff; PK-12 students and educators; and the local community of Bethlehem, Pa. and greater Lehigh Valley.
The Lehigh University Art Galleries holds a collection of more than 16,000 works of art from diverse cultures and time periods, in a wide range of media from photography and painting to video and sculpture. It generates more than a dozen exhibitions annually, produces scholarly publications and serves thousands of visitors a year. Lehigh University is a national research university with 5,000 undergraduate students, 2,000 graduate students and more than 500 faculty.
LUAG was notified in September that it had received the competitive $65,598 grant from IMLS, the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. It will begin to implement tools and strategies immediately, Crow said.
Since its founding in 1926, LUAG focused on amassing its impressive collection of art and artifacts, and primarily measured outputs, in terms of number of exhibitions and visitors, Crow said. The grant gives the museum the opportunity to step back and instead assess outcomes: “How do people benefit from the work we do? Is there a shift in knowledge, skills, attitudes or behaviors?,” said Crow, who joined LUAG in August 2018.
“This grant will give us the tools to be able to assess and talk about our work in terms of how people benefit in measurable ways,” he said, “and to learn how we can align our work in the most advantageous way with the greater work of the university and the local community to really maximize the benefit that this great collection can give us.”
Among the goals the university and art galleries share are emphasis on a well-rounded student experience and interdisciplinary research and programming, Crow said. For example, he looks forward to collaborating with the university’s newly created College of Health on projects exploring the relationship between art, health and well-being. Guest experts visiting through the grant will have the opportunity to meet with members of the campus community and to interact with the public.
LUAG will continue to work with its student advisory committee and will form an advisory committee in the local community. “We want to identify how to serve the community’s needs, at Lehigh and in the community,” Crow said. It also will expand engagement with the region’s growing Hispanic and Caribbean community, with many residents living in close proximity to Lehigh University and LUAG’s sizeable collection of art from Latin America and the Caribbean.
While improving organizational management and building the capacity of LUAG’s 7-member staff, the grant will result in more strategic, efficient and meaningful work for its audience, Crow said.
“We are very grateful to IMLS that they have supported our work because this is the really critical work that organizations have to do to become transformative, impactful places,” he said.