After 14 years with the Museum Center at Five Points, Ken Cagle is taking one final bow as operations manager to the most prestigious institution ever dedicated to Cleveland’s history and its support of the arts.
Staff and volunteers said they will miss the man who came on board in November 1999, two months after the Museum Center officially opened.
“I get emotional thinking about it,” Cagle said. “I think this is actually the greatest asset to Cleveland. It’s been such a catalyst for the revitalization of the downtown industry area. It’s really brought to life people and activities in this area. It’s been great being a part of that.”
Christy Griffith, president of the board of trustees of the Museum Center, said, “Ken Cagle has been the face of the Museum Center for over a decade. His style and charm with the supporters, members and visitors should be something for everyone to aspire toward. I am excited for him to begin this new chapter in his life and I am proud and honored to call him my friend. As the operations manager, Ken has worked on preparing for 14 years’ worth of weddings, parties, fundraisers, meetings and galas. He’s also had his fair share of leaky roofs, facility repairs, and 3 a.m. false alarms. We will miss Ken greatly.”
When asked why the change in careers just as the Museum’s Center is reaching new heights with an innovative and highly motivated new staff, Cagle reflected and said, “At (age) 52 you start to think of doing something different. The museum is in such great shape. The past board with Franklin Chancey, Christy Griffith and a lot of key members with the museum really came together. Hassan Najjar, the new executive director, is fabulous! He brought some great ideas. Everything is going so good here. People ask me, ‘Why are you leaving?’ I tell them, ‘I want to leave while everything is good.’
“Carol Burnett said, ‘I want to leave while I’m on top.’ That’s how I feel. We’ve got the best staff right now. We have a new education curator who came from Washington, D.C., Joy Veenstra. She’s great. I’m very fortunate to be able to take six months to a year just to slow down — maybe go on some trips, take care of some house projects and still volunteer here at the museum from time to time — like working on the fiber art fashion show. But I need to spend more time with my family.”
Cagle praised the partnerships developed by the museum with local businesses, calling them “great friends” whom he cherishes.
“That’s what I loved about being here,” he said. “Not only what we’ve done with exhibits and children’s programs — on top of the hundreds and hundreds of events that I’ve helped plan with people in the community — but to work with all these wonderful people and help them organize their events is a great reward.”
Jo Benjamin, a volunteer and former board member a the Museum Center said, “After so many years of working with Ken at the museum, it will not be the same without him. We will all miss his smile, his willingness to help, his pleasant, fun-loving and always agreeable personality. The current staff is extremely capable, and I am sure they, too, will miss him.”
“Another great reward has been working with local artists in the museum store,” Cagle added. “You learn so much about creativity and their passion for the arts. I’m very proud of our museum store. It’s great.”
Of all the things Cagle said he will miss, he said, “I’ll miss my museum family the most. The staff, the volunteers are just the best.”
Looking around the exhibits, walking the halls that helped highlight visual arts and new interpretations of local and regional artists as well as historical movements, Cagle expressed deep appreciation for Cleveland’s Museum Center and its devotion to addressing a wide range of subject matter, mediums and time periods.
“This is the most beautiful building. It’s welcoming. I’m going to miss it. We raise over 90 percent of our own money or budget. That tells people how important memberships and donations are. Also, we have so many out-of-town guests — people from California, Georgia — even Austria. They are amazed that such a small community has such a great museum! I heard that a lot.”
The Sweetwater native who moved to Cleveland in 1981 and attended Cleveland State Community College in 1983, said, “This community has been very supportive of the museum. We also get city and county money, which we appreciate very much. But this community has been very good to the museum. It’s the lifeblood of the museum. Without it’s donors, members and volunteers we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be the storytellers of the Ocoee region.”
Whether it was corporate events, weddings or fundraisers, Cagle said working with so many nice people in such a welcoming environment week after week has been his pleasure. But now it is time to move on.
“I have a beautiful Japanese-style garden I love to work in,” he said. “I’m going to take some time, enjoy my garden, my family and my life. I always said if I made it to 50, I would be lucky.”
Not only did he make it past 50, but Cagle made a community proud of his role as operations manager and a loyal supporter of the arts in The City with Spirit.