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For Broad Museum, picking the right director is key

Nov 5, 2015

MSU's Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum viewed from Grand River Ave
Credit Wikimedia user Dj1997 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan State University’s Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum is hard to miss.

The steel structure looks like some kind of strange spaceship among the traditional ivory-covered brick buildings around it.

November 10 marks the museum’s third birthday.

In his story for Lansing City Pulse, Larry Cosentino spells out the reasons the Broad is at a crucial time in its young history.

The heart and soul of the Broad, it seems, was its founding director Michael Rush. He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer this past March.

Cosentino tells us the impact Rush’s death has had on the Broad and its staff is hard to estimate, even now.

“He was so enthusiastic. He was able to deal with donors and with ordinary people who came in the museum and were afraid of contemporary art,” he says. “He was really a teacher at heart. He wasn’t a person who was locked into the hierarchy of curators and administration. There was no one like him.”

According to Cosentino, Rush assembled a “top notch” staff comprised of “world-renowned” players in the art world.

"They should have gone or could have gone to the coast, but they came to East Lansing, Michigan."

He adds that many of the staff have told him they came to the Broad specifically to work with Rush.

“They should have gone or could have gone to the coast, but they came to East Lansing, Michigan,” he says.

Former Detroit Institute of Arts director Graham Beal has become involved with MSU and the Broad, where he will advise the museum on programming as well as serving on the committee that will choose Rush’s successor.

Cosentino thinks Beal will bring a much-needed touch to the Broad regarding public relations.

“He’s learned a lot in Detroit on relating to the community, and ... of all the signposts that we see with the Broad museum so far, that’s where it’s perhaps … at its shakiest,” Cosentino says.

He explains that the Broad’s programs have garnered international attention and that many of its exhibits have been well received by critics, but the museum hasn’t been able to impact the city’s community as much as it had originally hoped.

“They wanted to really move the cultural needle up a notch here in East Lansing, and that’s the toughest job that that museum has, is they haven’t really proven yet that they’re going to get there,” he says.

However, he tells us that three years is not very long, and they still have time to meet their goals.

As far as next steps, Cosentino says picking a director is key.

“If they pick someone with a common touch, someone who knows how to send a message into the community, how to … give the museum a presence in the community, how to deal with the doubters and the haters, I think that’s crucial,” he says. “If they don’t do that, they’re dead in the water.”

- Ryan Grimes, Stateside