Bringing art closer to society: the new strategy of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art

  • 2024-02-09

The Lithuanian National Museum of Art commences this year with a new strategy, setting the key directions for the museum’s activity for the period of 2024–2026. The design of the strategy started with the revisiting of the institution’s regular activities and the exploration of avenues of enhancement of the role of the LNMA as a leader, a dynamic museum and a space for education, which includes different communities by promoting meaningful socialization. 

The mission of the museum: to preserve the artistic legacy and to bring its significance to public awareness 

The strategic plan of the LNMA articulates the museum’s new mission: to preserve the artistic heritage and to build public awareness for the importance of it by creating positive changes in human life. 

The museum claims that art is an asset of a gigantic educational potential, capable of offering the joy of discovery and the sense of the meaning of life. It is on this belief that the refined vision of the museum rests. We aspire to become a source of inspiration and an agent in the creation of a bonding environment of interaction, emotional well-being, of the knowledge of oneself and the world.  

Dr Arūnas Gelūnas, director general of the LNMA, recalls how five years ago, when he ran for director responsibility, he already had a strategy designed. It was established on his insights from his, then a visitor’s, explorations of the museum. 

“The process of strategy writing opened my eyes to the scale and complexity of the organization the LNMA represents: it embraces eleven subdivisions, even nine of them are dedicated to exhibition activity. The first two years at the helm of the institution gave me time to ponder on its organizational structure and decide what kind of team was needed to steer this gigantic vessel for her to proudly sail the seas, “A. Gelūnas recalls the beginning in this responsibility. “We have walked quite a distance: from the first, rather naïve strategy, drawn largely from the superficial observations and during the pandemic period when I got my strategic thread of thought organized and all the teamwork done in refining the best version. It is a formidable collective feat, that takes experience, analysis, statistics, verification of decisions with the museum community and the public.”  

The loyal friends of the museum can stay assured that the LNMA will be guided by its new strategy, which will facilitate to carry on its present activity with a more pronounced objectives in mind and to improve it. “The other day they were chatting about rock’n’roll music and how it tried to invent itself in entirely new forms of expression, but the result was bad rock’n’roll, as the fans no longer recognized their music. The structure is one thing that should stay. When it comes to the museum, the task of the preservation, presentation, dissemination of the artistic heritage remains invariable, but the strategy includes new ways of manifestation of it,” the head of the museum says. 

More steps towards its visitors 

The core of the LNMA is the collection. The museum houses it in safety, augments it consistently and regularly with valuable artwork significant to the Lithuanian and world cultures. It is a property of the state and its people, and the museum seeks to enlighten the increasingly broader circles of society on its artistic and cultural significance and to attract them to benefit from it. 

“Culture and art play a role of importance in all civilizations, that is why the mission statement of the museum stresses the task of seeking public awareness of the value of art we inherit as society. We want to take the museum closer to society and advice people on what we house, how the artwork gets restored, what exhibitions we put on, and why all this work matters. These are primarily education and communication objectives which invite us to revisit the role of an artist in society, the significance of their creative benefaction and to raise questions how the society-artist relationship defines us and whether art shapes, in a way, our identity?” the director general of the LNMA shares his considerations. 

A. Gelūnas notes that every step the museum takes towards its visitors is reciprocated by two visitors’ steps. To receive feedback from the visitors and to meet their needs is essential to the museum’s success. 

“I can see it that our visitors appreciate everything we have done for their benefit. This satisfaction, reflected in yearly-growing visitor numbers and their positive response, inspires us to do even more and keep growing.” 

New strategic directions 

The LNMA has established four strategic directions of activity: the enlargement of the museum’s collection; cultural education; building a committed team and ensuring financial growth. 

„All of these strategic directions matter equally and are closely interrelated. I believe in the importance of each enrichment of the collection, of every educational initiative, of each new exhibition or publication, of every preserved and newly attracted friend of the museum, of every benefactor or donor, and of every act to motivate the team, as our story would not be one of success without the fellow professionals working toward same goal. The museum is not a piece of machinery or a factory, it is a living organism,” A. Gelūnas also notes that a contemporary museum is created only by a committed, competent and constantly advancing team.  

A network of friends, supporters and donors of the museum to be created 

In regard to the strategic direction of financial growth, the director general of the LNMA emphasises the necessity for the museum, despite its generous funding from the state budget, to look for other sources of financing in order to help the institution to expand its activity. 

“We must hope for it and be ready. During my first tenure, working in a team, we spared no efforts to transform our museum into one attractive not only to visitors, but also to its benefactors. The divisions of the museum were significantly revamped and received more autonomy. We have opened new bookstores and the museum’s online shop, and have improved other services; we have brought in quality art projects and artists from abroad. The Litvak Artists in Paris, the last spring event at the Vytautas Kasiulis Museum of Art of the LNMA is an example of such. The artwork for the exhibition arrived from the esteemed art institutions of Paris, the Jewish Art and History Museum and the Pompidou Centre. This year the National Gallery of Art will host an event of the world famous South African photographer, coming of Litvak grandparents, David Goldblatt. Also, we will present the Lithuanian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennial. This sends a message of the museum’s competence to realize such ambitious projects, and of the museum as an interesting and reliable partner. We bravely venture into new territory, as in Lithuania we do not have many examples of state institutions developing their donor network. It is for us a new and exciting challenge,” with this hopeful note, A. Gelūnas also expresses his gratitude to all who already support the museum and invites new benefactors.    

Besides attracting new supporters and commercial partners, the museum intends to improve the functioning of the existing infrastructure and the services, in order they generate more income, leading to more independence, to design contemporary events and education activities, to produce publications, museum souvenirs and intellectual entertainment, to form an active link with and to ensure the communication with society.  

Museum as a forever exciting place for a rendezvous with yourself 

While discussing the museum as visitor-centred organization, Dr Arūnas Gelūnas, director general of the LNMA, notes the beneficial impact of art on a daily human life through stress reduction, through guidance into new areas of knowledge and enjoyment, and occasions for meaningful socialization. 

“Art opens new vistas of knowledge. People enjoy stories the works of art tell, the skill of the artist’s brushwork, conceptual invention. It is a noble and meaningful pursuit for a civilized person. Let us not forget that a museum can become a place for meaningful socialization, for going out with family and friends, for looking at the works of art, for discussion, for joking, for recalling our previous experience of art and threading these reflections together. It is a pleasure par excellence. Hans Georg Gadamer wrote of a meeting with a work of art as an encounter with oneself, which urges the viewer to ask metaphysical questions about the meaning of existence, and no wonder: as visitors before a work of talent we feel awestruck. And you cannot get too much of art: the more, the better art you get to see, the stronger is your feeling that life is good and pleasurable,” Dr Arūnas Gelūnas, director general of the LNMA praises the power of art.