The MAY SHOW is an annual juried exhibition of the works of northeast Ohio artists sponsored every spring by the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART. The first Annual Exposition of Cleveland Artists & Craftsmen, as the show was called before it earned the popular nickname "May Show," took place in 1919. The idea for an exhibition featuring works of Cleveland artists was proposed by museum director FREDERIC ALLEN WHITING as a means of spurring artistic growth and development in Cleveland by providing an annual review of artists' works and an opportunity for art patrons in Cleveland to buy works. The first May Show allowed artists to display works created up to 10 years previous to the exhibition; beginning with the second show, however, only the previous year's work was eligible for submission. WM. M. MILLIKEN, then curator of decorative arts, was in charge of the exhibition, a position he was to hold until his retirement (as museum director) in 1958. In the first show there were 36 classes, including oil and watercolor painting, graphic arts, photography, sculpture, basketry, enamelwork, and garden design. In 1961 the show was opened to artists in the entire Western Reserve, encompassing 13 counties. The number of categories was later established at 5: painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, and crafts. Awards include 5 cash awards of $1,000 and the Horace E. Potter Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship. More than 1,000 artists entered the 1990 show, of which 170 were accepted for exhibition. Following a 2-year hiatus occasioned by the CMA's 75th anniversary exhibitions, the May Show resumed on 9 June 1993.
In 1995, CMA offered a traveling exhibition of contemporary art instead of the May show, and in the summer of 1996, to mark the city's bicentenniel, CMA planned to present a survey of 150 years of Cleveland art—from the city's founding to 1945—which would feature the work of MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE, CHARLES BURCHFIELD, WILLIAM SOMMER, LOUIS RORIMER and many other internationally known artists.