Art museum director to start next week


Two years ago, Michael Rush was the director of an art museum in danger of closing its doors. Now, he’ll begin as the leader of one that hasn’t even opened them yet.

Rush was selected last month as the founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, slated to open in April 2012. He most recently served as director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., which was being considered for closure by the university in early 2009.

“I’m coming into a situation where everybody from the president on down is totally excited about this new venture,” he said. “Whatever the opposite of wanting to close a museum is — that’s what I feel.”

The museum’s focus will be on international contemporary art, something Rush said attracted him to the position.

Rush officially starts his position Saturday and will be in charge of hiring some of the staff and working on the branding and identity of the museum, said Linda Stanford, associate provost for academic services. He also will plan the opening ceremony of the museum next year, she said.

“He’ll be responsible for implementing and developing the mission and the vision of the museum,” Stanford said, referring to the focus of international contemporary art. “We have those ideas in a general sense, but he’ll develop them.”

Rush will help with fundraising to reach the museum’s $40 million building goal, she said. The museum broke ground last March.

A contribution of $28 million by the contemporary art museum’s namesake couple — billionaire alumnus Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe — comprises a majority of the private donations. A total of about $33 million had been raised as of October 2010.

Rush visited campus for about a week in mid-December 2010. He said he hopes to have some artists’ projects created for the museum’s website soon, so the facility can commission artwork before it opens to the public.

“I want the Broad museum site to be a place for the interactive,” Rush said.

Theatre junior Alyssa Friday said she never has visited the Kresge Art Museum currently on campus, but she plans to visit the new museum once it opens.

“I like almost every kind of art,” Friday said. “It would be cool to have some sculptures because there’s not a lot on campus.”

Rush said he is excited at the opportunity to join a Big Ten university with a diverse set of departments. He hopes to develop connections with students and faculty to make the museum a hub for creative thinking.

“We’re coming into a situation that is already very much a thriving, important place and we’re just going to take our place,” he said. “I love being part of a larger story.”

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