While Eli Broad continues to work toward his long-coveted Los Angeles museum, the Los Angeles billionaire philanthropist has taken a significant step in launching his smaller planned Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, naming Michael Rush to be the institution's founding director. Most recently the head of the troubled Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Rush resisted the controversial decision by that Boston-area school to sell its artwork and close the museum in 2009. After the crisis, Rush's contract was not renewed, and the Brandeis museum's situation remains unresolved today pending litigation by the Rose family.[content:shareblock]
Longtime supporters of East Lansing's Michigan State — Eli Broad's alma mater — the Broads had donated $28 million toward the museum, with $21 million designated for construction and $7 million for acquisitions. Additional fundraising has so far collected nearly $34 million of the $40 million goal for building the Zaha Hadid-designed museum, which broke ground on March 16 and is expected to open in spring 2012.
Rush has an unconventional professional background: he was ordained as a priest in the 1970s and then worked as an actor in the 1980s, appearing on "Law and Order" and elsewhere, before becoming an art critic. He has since published a dozen books on contemporary art. Before his stint at the Rose Art Museum, he was director of the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art.
In a statement, Rush called the museum's founding "a great moment in philanthropy, education, and international contemporary art." Eli Broad referred to Rush in a statement as "a principled scholar, educator, and museum professional who has demonstrated an ability to work effectively with a broad public while growing the reach of arts institutions internationally." With a focus on contemporary art, the museum will feature more than 70 percent gallery space, with room for large artworks to be displayed.