As the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum turns ten years old, the staff that has made the building the center of the art scene in the MSU community is reflecting on what has made the museum so successful in drawing artists to an athletics-based campus.
Steven Bridges has recently become the Interim Director of the museum. He worked as a curator for six years before becoming the head of the cultural center. He wants to provide a steady hand to the institution during the interim period.
“I think it's important that this time, especially with all kinds of changes that we're experiencing, both at the larger societal level, but also in our various communities, the museums need to be very much kind of in tune and responsive to our current changing world,” Bridges said. “Part of that has to do with building in different processes so … we work to make sure that the work that we produce is not done in a way that isn't entirely insular.”
While Bridges said the museum's main focus is the presentation of art and working with an amazing collection. Being part of the university implores them to engage with faculty and student groups. He wants their exploration of cultures, ideas and diverse perspectives to have a local connection.
Bridges wants to use the museum to advocate economic and cultural wealth, creating a space where the public can think, address and grapple with some of the most pressing issues.
He said with the Great Lakes being prevalent in the area, the museum has been able to use this issue in exhibition to explore the social issues and expand on it.
“Having those kinds of dualities and perspectives and connecting them, I think enriches the conversation and also hopefully connects … across the globe," Bridges said.
Bridges has been long interested in socio-political issues and how art can play a role in these conversations, as well as melding together sciences and other disciplines in art such as music, film, and poetry in the museum.
“As an institution, I think we've always produced at a very high level of integrity," Bridges said. "I think our exhibition is truly world-class.”
Bridges believes that this high-level art standard will continue with unveiling their new special exhibitions: one focusing on the architect of the museum, Zaha Hadid, and her design work, as well as a partnerships with the Flint Institute of Art and the University of Michigan.
Director of Communications Zoe Kissel said she has been a musician her whole life and majored in film production when she attended MSU. Working at the Broad allowed her to continue to be hands-on and creative in her work and her favorite community.
“I think that the arts are so important," Kissel said. "I think that a lot of people know MSU for its athletics, but we also have such a robust and energetic art scene here on campus from the College of Music, the College of Arts and Letters and just in the Greater Lansing community as a whole."
Kissel is most proud of the variety of programs the museum offers, from lectures to workshops on every medium of art the community could be interested in.
She said that her favorite part of the job is walking to work every day never knowing what the day will hold, with something new and exciting always happening within the museum.
Director of Education Michelle Word works with MSU students and faculty to bring students K-12 to the museum to learn the love for art she has now. While Word never went to a museum until high school, she works to make sure children have easier access to art with awareness days at the museum like Family Day.
"Hopefully, those students are going to be lifelong museum-goers, lifelong supporters of the arts because of their experiences,” Word said.
Since the Broad is the only art museum in the mid-Michigan area, the museum has a responsibility to offer the programming that allows for sustained access to the arts within schools, especially when budget cuts in public schools make it harder to devote time to art in schools.
"I love that when I show up to work, it's something different every day,” Word said. “My experience with a work of art changes because I get to hear it from other people. I get to hear many different perspectives.”
Word is excited to see the museum grow from its ten-year mark, wanting to build something at this relatively young museum. One project she is excited to see is the open storage collection, where the museum will display more works from their 10,000-piece collection that have never been seen before.
Assistant Director of Development Sandra Brown first found her love of art when she minored in dance at MSU, yet always had a passion for visual arts. Her family's extra money went towards her and her sister to be able to attend their local museum's art programs. Now, Brown wants to share those same experiences with the public, wanting the museum to feel less like an elitist pursuit, but something accessible to everyone.
“Visiting museums and cultural sites, like zoos or aquariums or science centers, anything like that has always been a part of who I am privately," Brown said. "Supporting that publicly and helping to do that is definitely a passion point for me."
Brown's role is to connect people who can generate funds philanthropically in the community to interests and projects at the museum that need financial support. She said the museum is a vital cultural resource that offers guests a rich physical and social environment, engaging all ages and backgrounds.
Brown wants people to see the Broad as a place they can bring their friends or family when they're visiting campus, creating a vibrant hub for social interaction.
“That's the great thing about art,” Brown said. “It transcends boundaries. So people who have interests, whether it's science, or engineering, or business or art, doctors, lawyers, people of all different backgrounds, they can have an interest in art and I think that's the unifier.”
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