The Toledo Museum of Art was founded April 18, 1901. The seven incorporators included an attorney, an architect, an industrialist, a realtor, a journalist, and two artists—each focused on a shared vision of creating an institution that would enhance the community with art and art education. More than a century later, the Toledo Museum of Art is considered one of the finest museums in the country. Thanks to the benevolence of its founders, as well as the continued support of its members, the Toledo Museum of Art remains a privately-endowed, non-profit institution and opens its collection to the public—free of charge—six days a week, 309 days a year.
The Museum continues to grow in the early years of its second century. Extensive renovation to the main building, the refurbishment of the Professional Arts Building, the installation of the Georgia & David K. Welles Sculpture Garden, and the Glass Pavilion are all signs that the Toledo Museum of Art continues to evolve in order to fulfill its mission, “To integrate art into the lives of people.”
1901—Edward Drummond Libbey, founder, is elected first president of the board of trustees of the newly founded Toledo Museum of Art. The Museum begins humbly with 120 charter members, temporary exhibitions in rented rooms in the Gardner Building in downtown Toledo, and no permanent art collection.
1903—George Stevens and his wife, Nina, are appointed TMA’s director and assistant director, respectively. The Museum moves to its first home, 1216 Madison Avenue. Edward Drummond Libbey buys and remodels this property and rents it to the Museum for a nominal fee. George Stevens’s policy of welcoming children to the Museum—even unaccompanied by adults—and offering free art classes for children is innovative and successful in generating community support for the institution.
1907—Edward Libbey pledges $50,000 toward a new Museum building if the people of Toledo would raise an equal amount. The goal is accomplished within 20 days. Libbey and his wife, Florence Scott Libbey, donate six acres of land on Monroe Street for the new building.
1912—The Museum’s new Monroe Street building opens. Libbey is adamant that the Museum be named for the people of Toledo, not for him and his wife. The classical Greek style of the Museum architecture employs Ionic columns on the entrance façades.
1916—Due to rising costs, Edward Libbey pledges $400,000 for endowment if the public will raise the same. Again, the fundraising is successful and prompts Libbey to pledge to donate the remaining sum needed to build the expansion of the building.
1919—The Museum creates the School of Design and provides traditional studio art classes and practical design classes to adults and children.
1924-26—Due to World War I and later economic depression, the expansion planned in 1916 is not completed until 1926. Edward Libbey’s gift of $850,000 is realized. With the addition of the Gothic Hall, auditorium, and additional gallery and classroom space, the Museum doubles in size.
1925—Edward Libbey dies and leaves $1 million to an endowment fund for the Museum.
1931—Florence Scott Libbey gives up her rights to her husband’s assets to make provision for two new Museum wings. The construction employs 2,500 men for two years in the depth of the Great Depression.
1933—The Peristyle concert hall and the two new wings open with a gala featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra.
1947—TMA director Otto Wittmann institutes the docent program by educating volunteers as guides to meet the growing demand for school tours.
1962—The Studio Glass Movement is born at a workshop in a garage on Museum grounds, where ceramist Harvey Littleton, scientist Dominick Labino, and glassblower Harvey Leafgreen prove that glass can be worked in a studio setting.
1969—The Museum’s Glass Crafts Building is built by Libbey-Owens-Ford, Owens-Illinois, and Owens Corning, making TMA the first museum with a studio built specifically for teaching glass working techniques.
1970—TMA’s Art in Glass Gallery is donated by Harold Boeschenstein and houses one of the most important glass collections in the world.
1970s—Donor Abe Plough forms and renovates the Levis Galleries in honor of William C. Levis. These galleries display much of the TMA collection of 18th-century European art.
1970s–80s—The corridors of the lower east wing are renovated to store and display the TMA graphic arts collection.
1982—The Gothic Hall and Auditorium are removed to construct the Canaday Gallery for special exhibitions. The Museum Café, the Hitchcock Print Room, the Glass Study Room, and a new Grove Street entrance are added.
1992—The University of Toledo Center for the Visual Arts opens. This 51,000-square-foot building is designed by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry. The CVA houses the UT Department of Art, studios, gallery space, and the Museum’s reference library.
2000–01—The Monroe Street building’s white marble façade undergoes extensive restoration in preparation for the Museum’s centennial.
2001—The Museum renovates the Professional Arts Building at Parkwood Avenue and Monroe Street. This Art Deco style building houses the Toledo Symphony Orchestra offices and the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.
2001—The Museum dedicates the Georgia and David K. Welles Sculpture Garden in front of the Museum on Monroe Street. Twenty-two sculptures and landscaped green spaces expand the Museum experience to the outdoors.
2004—Construction begins on the 76,000-square-foot post-modern Glass Pavilion, designed by Tokyo-based SANAA, Ltd.
2006—The Glass Pavilion is publicly inaugurated. Located on Monroe Street facing the main Museum, the Pavilion houses TMA’s extensive collection of glass art, as well as state-of-the-art glassmaking facilities, meeting spaces, and a coffee bar. All exterior walls and most interior walls are made entirely of curved glass panels, blurring the lines boundaries between interior and exterior space.
2008—As part of the Museum’s green initiatives, 1,450 solar panels are installed on the roof over the Classic Court and Peristyle to maximize operational efficiency through renewable energy. Produced by First Solar, the 101 kW system is currently one of the largest solar panel installations in the state of Ohio. On a clear, sunny day, the solar modules produce up to 20% of the total electrical demand for the building.
2011—More than 1,400 solar panels joined the 1,450 previously installed in 2008. Solar panels now cover 60% of the building, making the 202 kilowatt system on the roof one of the larger solar panel installations in the state of Ohio.
2012–TMA celebrates the 100th anniversary of the main Museum building. Visitors attending the ceremony in Libbey Court enjoy refreshments including an edible cake replica of the original building.
2012–In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement launched at the 1962 Toledo Workshops, this year sees the reinstallation of the glass collection in the Glass Pavilion; the opening of the Color Ignited exhibition in the all-new Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art; and the Glass Art Society’s annual conference held in Toledo, Ohio.
2013–On May 21, the Toledo Museum of Art went off the grid for the first time. The solar panels produced enough energy to meet the operational needs of the Museum and sent energy back into the electrical grid. The Museum’s electric car charging station, one of four in the metro Toledo area, became operational in August.
2014—The Toledo Museum of Art hosted the annual IVLA conference with the theme The Art of Seeing: From Ordinary to Extraordinary. It was the time in 47 years that the conference was held at a museum. An international roster of speakers presented, including keynote addresses by professor David Howes, artist Magdalene Odundo, plastic surgeon Joseph M. Rosen and former MoMA education director Phillip Yenawine.
2017—The Ohio Museums Association recognizes the accomplishments of TMA, naming it the Institution of the Year for 2016.