Cleveland Museum of Art Appoints New Director, Prays He'll Stay




Seven months after the Cleveland Museum of Art’s board of trustees attempted to ignore and then cover up the extramarital affair of former Director David Franklin and former employee Christina Gaston, an affair which may or may not have directly led to Gaston’s death and which certainly led to Franklin’s abrupt dismissal, veiled as a resignation, a new director has been appointed.

William Griswold, director of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City, will assume CMA’s top position in September, if not sooner.

Stephen Litt, the PD art critic and stenographer for the museum’s board during the Franklin fallout, reported Tuesday morning that Griswold emerged as a top candidate early in the search committee’s process, which included a pool of 30-40 candidates.

Unlike Franklin, a chronic drinker and inveterate mumbler, Griswold is said to be a sociable, fun-loving guy who loves joining Civic Boards and getting involved in the local community. Interim Director Fred Bidwell called Griswold “amazingly warm and engaging” in a Wall Street Journal story about the appointment. Board members see profit in his natural fundraising abilities and like his stated goals of reaching newer, broader audiences for the museum.

In Litt’s piece Tuesday, Griswold responded to questions about how long he expects to stay in town:

“I'm staying until I retire or until I get carried out in a box,” he said. “I don't love jumping around from museum to museum."

That may or may not be the case, but it’s rhetoric Clevelanders tend to get behind. Franklin, too, was considered a long-term guy because of his young children and what was thought to be his commitment to establishing roots in Northeast Ohio.

The museum, of course, is desperate for some leadership stability, as it has suffered through the comings and goings of three directors and four interim directors during the past 15 years, the latest of which has been the biggest blight on the institution's reputation. (It’s not unlike the Browns or the Cavs in that respect).

Griswold served as the Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from 2005-2007. He left after only two years at the helm to return to the Morgan, where he'd worked previously. The 53-year-old Griswold, for what it’s worth, lives with his partner of 23 years, Christopher Malstead.

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