CLEVELAND, Ohio – Attendance boosted by the popular Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition and the FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art this year helped the Cleveland Museum of Art break a 26-year record for the number of visitors attracted in any single summer.
Between July 1 and September 30, the museum said it attracted 305,692 visitors, the largest summer total in the institution’s 102-year history, and the largest since the same period in 1992, when the exhibition “Egypt’s Dazzling Sun: Amenhotep III,” helped the museum pull in 290,000 visitors.
Visitors this summer came from all 50 states and 23 foreign countries, generating $6.9 million in museum revenues, including $2.3 million in new memberships, the museum announced Thursday.
“We were really thrilled to see so many people come from so far away as well as close to home to celebrate the summer with us,” said Elizabeth Bolander, director of audience insights and services at the museum, who described the new information in an interview Wednesday.
The Amenhotep exhibition, organized to celebrate the museum’s 75thanniversary, drew 186,139 visitors, far more than the 120,000 attendees for the Kusama show, which surveyed the artist’s 65-year career.
The museum had to limit the number of attendees for “Infinity Mirrors,” which involved circulating small numbers of viewers in and out of specially constructed mirror rooms in 30-second shifts.
But with FRONT and other exhibitions and a full calendar of events and programs, the museum cruised past its 1992 summer attendance record.
Shows during that period included “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse,” and “Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt.”
The museum said it created 120 temporary jobs to support the Kusama exhibition, and recruited 100 volunteers.
Data crunched by Cleveland economist Jack Kleinhenz show that the Kusama exhibition contributed $5.5 million in economic impact in Cuyahoga County.
The figure includes $3.2 million in direct spending by visitors from outside Cuyahoga County, plus additional sums calculated for the ripple of indirect and induced spending triggered by the new dollars flowing into the local economy. The increased spending created 58 new jobs in the county, according to the analysis.
Kleinhenz said the data were calculated from 732 visitor surveys, which represented a 33 percent response rate among those polled by the institution.
Figures extrapolated from the survey indicate that 44,522 visitors came to see the Kusama show from outside Cuyahoga County.
“It goes beyond pure economics,” Kleinhenz said of the museum’s impact on Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. “It’s such a unique brand, like the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Clinic.”
Bolander said the summer of 2018 helped the museum understand how its recently expanded and renovated complex could accommodate a million visitors a year – a major goal of a new strategic plan unveiled in 2017.
Attendance has averaged 630,000 in recent years. Attendance this summer – if annualized – would nearly double that number.
“It was actually very exciting this summer,” Bolander said. “We were able to test if, you will, what it meant to be at that level of attendance for a sustained period.”