With a brand new year here, everyone seems to be off to a fresh start – including MSU. Construction will start on a new art museum for the University this spring. So while all of us are busy rethinking, reevaluating and then completely disowning our new year’s resolutions, the MSU campus and Art Department are preparing for a leap into the future with a new building.

This video on MSU’s YouTube channel provides an illustration of what the Museum will look like:

But how did this futuristic building land at Michigan State University?

In the summer of 2007 MSU announced that a new art museum would be built on campus. “The museum outgrew its facility decades ago,” Director of Kresge Art Museum, Susan Bandes said. “This building will help put mid Michigan on the map in a way that we are not already.”

The decision for a new art museum was definitely not an abrupt one. “The current Kresge Art Center had been looking to expand and after numerous conversations between President Simon and museum donor Eli Broad a rough plan was made,” said Linda Stanford, professor of art and art history, and associate provost for academic services. She said Eli Broad is very supportive of the university and the new art center. Stanford said that Broad was even quoted as saying, “you need to do something transformative and if you do I’ll give a gift to help.”

Having previously taught architectural history here at MSU, Stanford said it hits close to home. “It’s something I actually know about,” Stanford said, “its fun.” The university is hoping the new museum will aid in linking campus life to the community. The museum’s placement on campus as well as it’s modernity and educational and creative opportunities will allow it to thrive in both campus and community involvement. The importance already being placed with the new museum coming to campus allows us to understand the significant roll it will soon play in the arts.

In June of 2007 philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe donated $18.5 million toward the university’s new museum. With an additional $7.5 million for a signature sculpture and other operations, their $26 million gift to the university is the largest monetary gift ever made. “Without the Broad’s gift, we wouldn’t be talking about transformation for Kresge,” Bandes said. “Because of their generosity, we’ve leaped into a whole new world.” Bandes also said that the Broads are listed among the top ten art collectors in the world and have always been avid museum and contemporary art supporters.

The estimated cost of the project is said to be about $30 million. Additional money for the project has come from MSU fundraising which raised about $6.5 million and also a $2 million gift from MSU alumni Edward and Julie Minskoff.

It was anything but a simple process when world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid of London was chosen to design the building. In June 2007, MSU began an international design competition to choose the architect for the new project. Hadid was announced as the winner of the competition in 2008. President Simon and Eli and Edythe Broad joined Hadid in accepting and then a presentation and celebration of the decision at the Kellogg Center. Renowned architect and design critic Joseph Giovannini was chosen by MSU to officiate the contest. There were ten finalists chosen from a group of about 30 international firms. From the ten, five were then chosen to present ideas to a jury and the public on campus in July 2007. The job of the jury was to simply make recommendations to President Simon and the university’s design committee. From there, President Simon and the committee reviewed the concepts of the five finalists and made their final decision.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum will stand on Grand River next to Berkey Hall near the Collingwood entrance to campus. The museum will have two entrances – one from Grand River, the other from campus. “It stands as a sculpture itself without really a front or back,” said Stanford. The goal of the building’s unique appearance and placement is to visually represent how the university is linked to the community. “We’re trying to make people understand that this museum could easily be a part of their life,” Stanford said.

Inside, the museum will feature some major exhibitions and collections that will come in and out, shows that are created by the art museum staff as well as some of the work from the university’s permanent collection that is currently housed at Kresge. “This is the transformative part,” Stanford said, “We’re not just moving things from one place to another.”

By and large, admission to the museum will be open to the public. This will allow students to linger in and out of the museum between classes with community members. “It could be closed for special events, but it would be highly unusual,” Stanford said. “That’s how most university museums function.”

The museum’s board of directors hopes that it will do much more than just serve as the university’s new art museum. “President Simon wanted us to think in a bigger way,” Stanford said, “and not only about the building, but about expanding our international reach.” Many aspects will play a role in internationalizing MSU’s new museum from the architect being internationally known to the museum’s specific placement on campus.

“The university museum right now is sort of out of sight, out of mind,” Stanford said. “The state doesn’t have an art museum – it’s here to serve the mid-Michigan community. When we expand our world, it becomes international.”

Bandes seems to think the actual museum itself will be the largest attraction. “The architect is internationally renowned and her work is not well represented in the U.S,” she said, “so people will certainly come just for the building.”

The board is hoping to attract major exhibitions and collections, and become recognized around the world. With the additions in artwork that the museum will be able to hold, they are eager to enhance student and community art appreciation. “We will finally have a fitting home for the collection as well as having a significant architectural building,” Bandes said.

As far as the space that will open up in the Kresge Art Museum, there are no definite plans yet, but the area is assigned to the College of Arts and Letters.

Groundbreaking for the museum is scheduled for March 16, 2010. “Once we have the groundbreaking, they’re going to come in and dig up the ground the day after,” Stanford said. Stanford further explained that the groundbreaking and construction can be done one of two ways: groundbreaking, wait, build or wait, groundbreaking, build – MSU has chosen the latter. “In the mean time, we’re getting questions answered,” Stanford said.

“I think the museum will be able to give the art students a wider range of subjects and medium to explore,” said Jessica Ford, freshman studio art major. “It’s going to provide more opportunities for us to not only learn about art but creating inspiration for our own work.”

Ford also said that she thinks the new expanded and updated museum will be able to attract more people to come and experience the art. “Open events and exhibits are a chance, for not only the art students here at MSU, but for anyone who wants to go.”

There are a lot of students unaware that they should even be expecting a new construction site this spring and when it pops up they’ll be shocked by its appearance. It’s a project the University has really put a lot of thought and energy into and the administration is really hoping to change not only the art program here but the community as well. “I’m really looking forward to it,” said Ford. “Being an art student, it’s important to have an effective museum available to learn more and create more.”

The new museum should open sometime in 2012. So if the world doesn’t end first and you’ve already graduated, come back and check it out.

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