Tuesday, January 31, 2023

'Art is something that is not elitist': Board of Broad Art Museum seeks accessibility

September 7, 2022
Broad Member, Jordan Sutton poses outside of the MSU Broad Art Museum.
Broad Member, Jordan Sutton poses outside of the MSU Broad Art Museum. —
Photo by Zari Dixson | The State News

With the staff of Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum in charge of curating exhibits, programming educational events and connecting with the community, the team needs another leg to stand on. The Board of Directors gives Broad the boost they need in the arts community of Greater Lansing.

Chair of the board Alan Ross said that the advisory board is comprised of individuals that are interested in the museum, the arts and MSU. Though Ross himself is an MSU grad, many people on the board are not.

"It's a diverse board," Ross said. "They're representing the region. The community across the board is made up of all age groups, all demographics. It helps give advice to the museum's outlook on other areas.”Ross unintentionally became involved with Broad in 2014. The museum was looking for active donors and contacted art enthusiasts in Detroit, who recommended Ross for the position. At the time, Ross was not familiar with the museum but said he became "enthralled" by what he saw.

Ross has always cared about design-- he painted and coordinated his room at MSU as a student. He was immediately interested in returning to his alma mater to work in a design-based environment.

“My wife and I are large art collectors," Ross said. "We travel. We know many different galleries. We know many different artists. We're very active in the art community around the world. Our collection in Detroit is extremely large and constantly growing. We acquire monthly and we invite people to visit our collection.”Ross believes that the growth of the museum has accelerated recently, due to being the only art museum in Lansing and the staff's growing understanding of the importance of a social media presence.Ross also wants the museum to be seen as approachable by the public. He wants to build trust and accessibility to art by offering art classes to young children.

Ross also said that the board is able to see what is really important to people and advise the museum on what they hear from the community. He said that he's seen this advice being taken into account and change in the museum. His overall goal is to increase endowments for exhibitions that are currently out of the museums' reach.

Board member Jordan Sutton said that the museum has done a good job of bringing arts and resources to everyday community members.

"Where the art or the conversations leave the walls of the museum," Sutton said. "I think is the first important step.”

Sutton grew up in East Lansing, visiting the Kresge Art Museum. She was introduced to Kresge by having educational members of the museum come to schools and teach them about the art pieces. She wants to model Broad after this kind of program, using the connection to the educational institution wisely.

Sutton is excited about the ideas that new Interim Director Steven Bridges is bringing to the table. She wants to help convey those ideas to the public especially, by communicating these stories and exhibitions to children, senior citizens and everyone in-between.

“[The goal is] meeting them where they are," Sutton said. "They might be at a local festival, or some other community organization or within a school. I think if we can reach into those areas, then we're going to be able to allow first-time visitors and repeat visitors.”

Board member Hari Kern explained that by donating annually and sponsoring different shows, board members can further these goals and promote the interest of art as they do in their everyday lives. She sees the board's role as being supportive to staff, curators, directors and the mission of the museum.Growing up visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, Kern has loved museums and held art as an interest her whole life. She pursued a career in psychology and mental health instead of in the arts but she believes that this sets her apart from other board members.

"It's been my profession for 38 years now," Kern said. "Although I'm retired, I spent most of my career as a psychologist doing individual and group psychotherapy … so I think about the Broad in what it has to offer in terms of being important for the health of our community.”

Kern wants to fight the feeling of exclusivity in the art world and make a more broad audience at the Broad-- dismantling any elitist aspects or reputations.

“Sometimes in this community, there's this idea that you have to act a certain way or you have to think a certain way," Kern said. "Art is something that is not elitist in itself ... In the history of civilization, all cultures have their art. I think education about what an art museum has to offer is very important.”

Kern and many of the board members believed that this vision was lost until the last director, Monica Ramirez, came into the picture. Now, she says wounds have healed and the board has moved in a better direction.

Since then, Kern has marveled at the creativity of the staff and museum, working towards building that better museum and seeing the museum as a ship that's working together towards one goal: bettering the art and the community.

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