The mission of Springfield Museum of Art is to collect, preserve and exhibit works of art that inspire and educate. Through art exhibitions and art education, the Museum seeks to engage the entire community in the enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts.
In 1946 a group of concerned artists and citizens, feeling that Springfield needed a showcase for the visual arts, formed the Springfield Art Association. Their first exhibitions were held on the premises of supportive area businesses, and later in leased gallery spaces. The Association was formally incorporated in the early 1950s and began offering art classes for both children and adults. In 1967 the first part of our building on Cliff Park Road opened and Springfield finally had a visual arts facility designed expressly for the purpose of mounting art exhibitions and offering educational programs. At that time, a permanent collection of art objects was established to foster greater interest in the visual arts, as well as encourage excellence in the work of students enrolled in classes. As the new building opened to the public, the name of the organization was changed to the Springfield Art Center.
In 1974 the size of the original facility was doubled to accommodate growth in both the classes and in the display of art. In 1977, the Museum received the gift of an outstanding collection of 19th and 20th century American and European works; which greatly enhanced the Museum’s focus on the permanent collection. Since then, the Museum has systematically added works to the collection through purchase and gift acceptance. Also in 1977, the Springfield Art Center’s continued success, growth and quality was recognized by the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums) through accreditation. The Museum has earned re-accreditation in 1986, 1999, and most recently in 2012.
In 1989, the organization became Springfield Museum of Art, acknowledging the increasing importance placed on art exhibitions and the permanent collection. A second capital campaign in the mid-1990s raised $3.85 million to create the Museum facility we see today, with the addition of a new 20,000-square-foot museum wing and the renovation of the existing 15,000 square foot of space.
In 2010, the Museum sold the building to Wittenberg University following a reorganization of the Museum’s education and events activities. The building is now called Springfield Center for the Arts at Wittenberg University. This sale enabled Springfield Museum of Art to re-focus its resources on the core mission of exhibitions, collections stewardship, and educational programming. Wittenberg renovated the former Sycamore Room (multipurpose function room) to be used as the Student Black Box Theatre. The Museum and the University view their collaboration as a positive one, and continue to explore how the facility will best benefit the community and all involved. The financial stability of the organization has always been of paramount concern to the Board of Trustees, and within the past five years they have been able to increase the market value of the Museum’s endowment to $2.4 million.
Springfield Museum of Art continues to mount changing exhibitions and works from its permanent collection while engaging new audiences and building strong relationships with museum members and community groups through exhibition-related public programs. Community demand for art classes at the Center for the Arts location led the Museum to form a partnership with Clark State Community College’s Department of Continuing Education and Wittenberg University to offer community art classes in the former art center school space. Museum members receive a discount on tuition for classes offered by Clark State at Springfield Center for the Arts.
The Museum was accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliates program in 2012, currently the only art museum in Ohio with that distinction.