Broad art museum takes shape
From his office window overlooking what soon will be the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, director Michael Rush can view daily progress of the $45 million contemporary art project he’s been brought on to lead.
And so far, he likes what he sees.
“I see these visualizations taking shape right before my eyes,” Rush said. “This is my daily life, watching this baby go up.”
As the summer heats up, construction continues on the state-of-the-art facility near Berkey Hall on Grand River Avenue. Since breaking ground in March 2010, construction has progressed smoothly, and much of the frame now towers over the surrounding landscape.
Certain areas of the building were opened over the past few weeks to select media members, and Rush and other university officials remain confident the museum is on-track for an April 2012 opening.
“I really don’t think there’s a building like this in the United States,” Rush said.
On his appointment in December 2010, Rush immediately set out across the country, meeting far and wide with prospective donors in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas.
Rush’s busy travel schedule hasn’t dampened his spirits.
“It’s been very exciting because this has given me the opportunity to meet a large number of folks who are so devoted to MSU,” he said. “It’s been great. There’s such enthusiasm.”
The university has about $5 million left to raise to meet its fundraising goal of $40 million and hopes to bolster the project’s bank account through a combination of private and public donations.
MSU plans to launch an initiative allowing donors to earn a spot on the museum’s Founders Wall for gifts of $25,000 and up, some of which can be spread over a five-year period.
“We’re finding a great deal of enthusiasm for the project and its importance to the university,” said Mark Terman, the university’s executive director of principal gifts.
Funding for the museum itself initially was jump-started by a $26 million gift from billionaire alumnus and businessman Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe. Eli Broad then committed an additional $2 million to the project in January 2010, pouring in $28 million total from his own pocket of the roughly $35 million the university has raised so far.
Much of that money has been funneled toward construction efforts, while about $7 million will be used to procure art for the museum.
Terman said the project is within budget with substantial completion slated for January 2012.
A work of art
Construction at the site to this point has met the expectations of Rush and others, despite attempts to vandalize the area, most notably two separate incidents involving graffiti and about $1,000 in damage. The site fell victim to vandals as recently as early June, but damage was repaired within a day.
World-renowned London architect Zaha Hadid designed a one-of-a-kind building, Rush said.
“The one surprising thing to me is the vastness of the space. It feels much larger than I was led to believe,” he said. “We have six very sizable exhibition spaces, which is going to be extraordinary.”
Those exhibition spaces will be filled with a mix of contemporary art from around the globe, including pieces from MSU’s own Kresge Art Museum collection, which will be absorbed by the Broad Museum when Kresge Art Museum shuts down next April.
Rush said exhibitions will rotate through the museum, featuring bought or borrowed pieces in addition to the university’s substantial collection.
At any given time, less than 2 percent of the school’s collection — which numbers thousands of pieces — is in public view.
“People will be seeing more of the collection than they have before,” he said. “People don’t have to worry about not seeing things.”
Work from about 10-12 countries will be featured in the museum’s first opening exhibition, all from countries with strong MSU ties. Until that time, museum officials won’t fade into the background.
Getting the word out
Rush said his office is planning a series of educational lectures related to contemporary art, as well as art history, in anticipation of the museum’s opening.
In recent months, the museum also made efforts to reach out to MSU students, specifically through a student committee formed this past spring.
Officials hope the group will provide feedback on potential ways to involve and engage MSU students at the museum through both events and activities.
About 45 students responded to initial requests made through university departments by Christine Nichols, Kresge Art Museum’s outreach and events coordinator.
The committee had one meeting before the close of spring classes, which included an introduction to Rush.
“He discussed his vision for the student group,” Nichols said.
The team of students will work toward forming a registered student organization with the university in the fall.
“I viewed it as an excellent opportunity to work, teach and research within the confines of a contemporary art museum environment,” said Deborah Wheeler, a committee member and graduate student in the Department of Art and Art History.
When construction crews put down their hard hats, Rush is looking forward to seeing the finished product.
“I just think people are going to be stunned by the beauty and grandeur of this museum,” he said.