Q & A with Michael Rush of MSU's Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Q: You’ve been on campus since January. In a sentence or two, what have you been doing?
A: I think of the Broad as a start-up, an amazing start-up. So, I have been hiring staff, conceptualizing programs, and, most of all meeting lots and lots of people, both locally and nationally to create support for this new institution.
Q: What opportunities have emerged that you did not know about before you arrived?
A: I knew MSU was a substantial university before I came here. I have since discovered how truly remarkable a place this is. From top flight scientists, humanists and experimental artists, all possessing a genuine global view, MSU is proving to be beyond my expectations for excellence.
Q: How are you feeling about the Zaha Hadid designed building?
A: It’s truly fantastic. This is a visionary space that is dynamic in every way. You can feel its powerful sense of motion even at this stage in its development. We can see the shape of the galleries, the public spaces, etc. It’s exhilarating to walk through. I can only dream what it will feel like upon completion. There’s nothing like it in the States. This utterly original building will be a gathering place for all people interested in contemporary creative thought and practice. The building will also be a hub for exploring the role of architecture in the community life of the region. It is going to spark associations and programmatic innovations we haven’t even thought of yet.
Q: What challenges are ahead?
A: Like any start-up our challenges include becoming a genuine destination for a broad group of people within realistic financial means. Personally, the biggest challenge is to create a deeply meaningful and wide-ranging program which will bring both the people and the resources to assure our growth.
Q: We’ve been told the building construction is on schedule. When do you expect you and your staff will occupy the new art museum?
A: The building is, indeed, on schedule thanks to the extraordinary team that has been overseeing it since the beginning. We plan to move into our offices on the lower level in late December or early January prior to a late April opening.
Q: To run an art museum, what kind of staffing are you developing?
A: To be a leading contemporary museum we need top notch curatorial, educational, and other professional staff. Our staff needs to be in touch with developments in the international art world and be able to think way outside the box in terms of programming.
Q: In terms of programming what are you thinking about for exhibitions and other programming?
A: I want the new Broad Art Museum to be the artistic wing of the global mission of Michigan State. The exhibition program will feature the finest creative practice from artists throughout the world, especially from countries where MSU has a strong presence in terms of programs and alumni. These would include China, South Korea, continental Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Russia and others. The public programs will include performances (music, dance, performance art, sound, light); interactive events, including 3D environments, and a vigorous program of lectures, panels and symposia.
Q: Will there be a place for the collection of the Kresge Art Museum that the Broad is inheriting.
A: Very much so. One of the most extraordinary opportunities we have as a contemporary art museum is access to an historical collection. You will be seeing this collection exhibited in dynamic, new ways. Contemporary art has antecedents throughout the history of art and we are uniquely suited to present developments in artistic thinking through the eyes of centuries’ worth of art. The collection will be a vital part of our exhibition program. We will also be inviting artists to curate exhibitions from our collection in combination with their own work.
Q: Will all staff be in the new building?
A: The staff will be split between the new museum and offices on the third floor of the Student Services building across from the art museum.
Q: Until now, the Department of Art, Design, and Art History had annual or biennial exhibitions in the art museum. Will these continue?
A: We look forward to working closely with this department. You will be seeing art from students and faculty in exhibitions in the Broad Art Museum at MSU.
Q: What other MSU departments do you see being engaged in the new art museum?
A: My hope is to have as many departments as possible plugging into our programming in the new museum. There is no subject in the modern world, or in the academy, that is alien to the interest of international artists. Artists are engaging science, engineering, new media and communications, land, agriculture, design and on and on. Our doors will be wide open for collaborations and research opportunities.
Q: What kind of access to the collection will faculty, scholars, and students have?
A: The collection will be fully accessible. We have a designated study room and gallery. Faculty and students will request to view works just as they do now.
Q: How much of the present collection will be exhibited at any one time?
A: As with most museums, less than two percent of the collection has been on display at any given time. You will be seeing favorite works and works you didn’t even know were there exhibited in the new Broad. The big difference is that these historical works will not be isolated according to their production dates. They will co-exist within a broader understanding of a dynamic art history.
Q: In the MSU art museum previously, volunteers contributed to different programs. What do you see as the role(s) of volunteers?
A: Volunteers will play a key role on the new museum. An expanded docent program, for example, will be a fundamental part of the new museum’s offerings. The extraordinary programs, including GESSO, which brings art to the schools, Elder He ART, which offers art programming to seniors with dementia, and numerous K-12 programs and targeted programs for all age groups, will continue and be expanded in vital ways. We will have student docents and a very active student volunteer and internship program.
Q: How will art museum membership be handled? Will current art museum memberships be transferred?
A: MSU's Broad Art Museum will have a very lively membership program offering special events, trips, discounts, access to other museums and a host of other benefits. All up-to-date Kresge memberships will be honored in the new museum.
Q: We’ve heard that the Kresge Art Museum is closing at the end of July. What will happen to the space the art museum occupies in the Kresge Art Center?
A: The Kresge Art Museum will close on July 29th after the current exhibitions end. The Kresge Art Center, which houses the Department of Art, Design, and Art History and and its exhibitions spaces on the first floor will remain very much open. The use of current museum space will remain an open question for the time being until we see how the new museum functions. The space will house some exhibitions associated with the Art Department during the coming year.
Q: With the closing of Kresge, will there be any access to the collection for faculty, scholars, and students in fall 2011?
A: Yes, the collection will be accessible by appointment with the museum’s registrar.
Q: What Broad activities are planned between now and next spring?
A: The Broad Art Museum will sponsor several projects and programs during the months prior to its opening. First of all is the "Countdown to the Broad" gala on Sept. 30. This fundraising event, the inaugural one for the museum, will feature a multi-media environment, special guests and great food! It will be held at the Henry Center and people will soon be able to get information on our website at www.broadmuseum.msu.edu.
We are launching “VBAM,” the Virtual Broad Art Museum, a virtual reality art environment being developed by MSU artist and faculty member, Adam Brown, and John Fillwalk, from Ball State University. It will be accessible through our website starting in late July.
We are also planning a series of lectures on contemporary art from leaders in the field starting in late September. We are also planning on a series of art events with regional artists.
Q: When the Broad opens in Spring 2012, will there be art in the building or will it be empty?
A: There will be art: from many corners of the world and from the collection.
Q: Will Mr. and Mrs. Broad and Zaha Hadid attend the dedication?
A: We fully expect so!