The museum has historically reached out to the community through a variety of exhibitions and programs designed to engage and educate a variety of audiences. During the holiday season the museum becomes particularly festive. As early as the 1920s children were invited to participate in holiday parties with all the trimmings. Educational programming included the production of plays and masques adapted by education and musical arts department staff and produced by the Cleveland Playhouse.
By far the most beloved museum holiday tradition was the annual community Christmas carol candlelight program. Begun in 1941 the program was sponsored by the museum’s Junior Council and the Cleveland News. From the beginning crowds numbered over two thousand with many having to be turned away for lack of space. The program consisted of two choirs who processed into the armor and garden courts for a grand performance and Christmas carol sing-along. The concert concluded with the audience processing out the south entrance while singing Silent Night. The annual holiday concert continued until the retirement of Karel Paukert, Curator of Musical Arts, which also coincided with the temporary closure and renovation of Gartner auditorium.
The most recent museum holiday tradition is the winter lights lantern festival which coincides with the University Circle holiday CircleFest. Since 1994 lantern making and decorating workshops culminate in the lantern procession featuring guest artists, giant puppets, dancers, and museum visitors. This year’s lantern festival runs through January 2, 2011 with Circlefest on December 5th. More information can be found at www.clevelandart.org.
Through the years local artists have expressed holiday wishes to museum directors and staff with greeting cards of their own design. An exhibition of these greeting cards is currently on display in the Ingalls Library.