The house that art builds

03-17-2010

Good art can’t be hurried, I’ve heard it said, and neither should the venue that houses it. I was particularly pleased to help break ground Tuesday for the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at its site fronting Grand River Avenue.

Accompanying me were, among many other important participants, Mr. Broad, architect Zaha Hadid, Governor Jennifer Granholm, and representatives of two deeply involved Michigan companies, construction management firm Barton Malow Co. and architectural firm Integrated Design Solutions. We hosted more than 500 people on a gloriously sunny and mild March morning––itself a rare creation!

You might recall we announced the initial gift from the Broads June 1, 2007, to provide a home for a collection focused on modern art. Six months later, we announced selection of the building design submitted by Zaha Hadid to our very competitive review process. It’s taken some time to nail down construction and fundraising elements, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be worth the wait.

I encourage you to follow the links above to the facility’s Web site, read the background material, and watch the videos, including a stunning virtual “fly through” of Ms. Hadid’s amazing design.

She really is an inspiration to architects around the world. The founding partner of London-based Zaha Hadid Architects, Ms. Hadid is the first woman to earn the distinguished Pritzker Prize and has collected many other honors. She is internationally known for both her futuristic theoretical and her architectural work.

Some of her best-known projects include office buildings, pavilions, a fire station, a tram station, and even a ski jump in such locations as Germany, England, France, Austria, Spain, Denmark, and Scotland. She is a leader in developing new architectural language through innovative computational design processes and fabrication. Her designs test our understanding of a building as both object and space.

In the realm of art museums, you might have visited the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, a sophisticated urban landmark. More recently, large crowds enthusiastically walked through the fluid forms of the Maxxi Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome. When the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opens, it will be Ms. Hadid’s second completed project in the United States and her first on a university campus. We are thrilled with this distinction.

As I hear different voices express what this new art museum means to them, I am reminded of the purposes of a university made manifest through a variety of fields of study. These purposes include providing education, conducting research that informs the human condition, and sharing our scholarship with others so we may live fully today and be inspired about and equipped for the future. The Broads’ gift means we will be able to achieve these goals through varied aspects of the visual arts.

When Eli and Edythe gave $28 million for this art museum, they not only provided the largest individual cash gift in the university’s history, they assured that access to contemporary art in this region would thrive. Mr. Broad has spoken of the importance of knowing the art of one’s time so we may know ourselves better. And he and Edythe have made it something we look forward to doing––entering a vibrant space filled with visual delights to ponder and explore.

And we are grateful to the many other donors who have joined the Broads. Years ago, local art enthusiasts began their strong support of the university’s art museum and created a local groundswell of support for either a renovated or a new art museum. They, too, appreciate the Broads’ embrace of the idea of a transformative art museum on this campus.

Susan Bandes, director of the Kresge Art Museum, and the Friends of Kresge Art Museum also deserve our thanks for their success during these early and ongoing fundraising phases. Their efforts demonstrate that private support is critical to the overall well-being of MSU and to significant projects such as this one.

The City of East Lansing also has responded generously. Great art and great communities not only deserve one another, they complement one another. The Broad Art Museum will become a travel destination, both for its architecture and its art, and the community and campus together provide a harmonious canvas for what will become a visual treasure.

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