Five years ago, the idea of building a $40 million museum in the heart of an economic recession seemed foolish to some people, especially when basic needs seemed more essential, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said during the dedication of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Saturday.
However, Simon said she believed in the project through its many difficulties. It was necessary, she said, for it to continue to help MSU become a one-of-a-kind university in the 21st century.
“This building does fit a basic need for the university, for the state and for the country,” Simon said to several hundred people Saturday morning. “(It) represents the fact that it will be here for many, many years to come and will be a world-class place for many years to come.”
Recently, a study by Anderson Economic Group, an East Lansing professional service firm that analyzes public policy for public, private and government sectors, will generate about $6 million in revenue for Greater Lansing.
To decide the design of the museum, Simon decided to hold a competition with some of the top architects in the world. Award-winning architect Zaha Hadid came out on top with a design Eli Broad called an “architectural masterpiece.”
The opening celebrations this past weekend featured a live band, lavish dinners, historic pieces of art and a high-profile guest list including millionaires and billionaires.
But this moment didn’t come without its challenges and hiccups.
The multi-million dollar project was kick-started in June 2007 when MSU alumnus Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, announced they would donate the largest individual cash gift in the history of MSU: $26 million.
At the time, alumnus Edward Minskoff and his wife, Julie, followed the Broads’ lead and donated $2 million to the project.
When the project officially was announced in January 2008, the university was scheduled to break ground on the site that year and open the museum in 2010.
But the project was plagued with fundraising complications, despite the Broads’ and Minskoffs’ generous donations.
In 2010, the Broads announced another donation of $2 million to increase their total cash gift to $28 million.
In early 2010, about $7 million still was needed to complete the fundraising, and by July 2011, $5 million still needed to be raised, according to past State News articles.
Originally scheduled for an April 2012 grand opening, the museum had construction complications when some of the glass panels for the building did not fit properly, delaying the opening until November.
Museum Director Michael Rush said at that time, the museum still needed about $3 million to reach the $40 million mark.
“I think we had an ambitious schedule that we were hoping for, so now I think we’re being more realistic for time,” Rush said when the announcement to delay the opening occurred.
On Thursday, the museum still had about $1.3 million to raise for the project, said Marcia Crawley, the museum’s director of development.
But during Saturday’s dedication, approximately 2,000 days since the Broads’ donation was announced, Simon stood in front of a large crowd in a tent outside of the museum proudly declaring the museum had reached its fundraising goal.
Friday night at the private dinner, the Minskoff family and the family of alumnus John Demmer donated the money needed to complete the fundraising.
“I know there’s been some tough moments on this project, but we’ve carried on,” Hadid said.
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After graduating from MSU in 1954, Eli Broad went on to become a billionaire and form two Fortune 500 companies: KB Home and SunAmerica.
During his career, Broad became immersed in the arts, having built two of the “most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide,” according to The Broad Art Foundation
Eli Broad also is a life trustee of three museums in cities such as New York City and Los Angeles.
Eli Broad said when he received a call from Simon five years ago with the idea for the project, he was excited to give back to his alma mater once more.
In 1991, Eli Broad donated $20 million to help move the Eli Broad College of Business and the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management to the top tier of colleges in the nation.
“(Edythe) and I were pleased to provide the $28 million to make this possible,” Eli Broad said during the press conference. “This has exceeded our expectations, and we look forward to sharing it with the students and community.”
With pieces of art from more than 20 countries and from all throughout history, Rush said people who attend the museum will be able to examine the meaning of art from different areas of the globe and different time periods.
“The mission of the Broad Art Museum is one of (an) international reach that is in line with the extraordinary global mission and reach of MSU,” Rush said. “As a university museum, it is our mission and goal to offer students the best in this cultural production, with the widest international view to become another part of their expansive worldview right here in this amazing building.”
The museum received praises from several government officials, including Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who attended Saturday’s dedication.
“The Broad Art Museum will be there with (the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams) that will, in terms of something that will be recognized around the world as the best, and that’s truly exciting,” Snyder said.
While standing in a long line to see the museum, journalism freshman Brooklyn Sondgeroth said she thought the Broads’ efforts were tremendous.
“I’ve seen this place being built for so long and (have) seen so many different people here … so I thought it would be something cool to do with my friends,” Sondgeroth said.
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