Michael Rush, the founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and award-winning curator, author and critic, died March 27 after a courageous two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Rush began his tenure at MSU in 2010 and was instrumental in the completion of the visionary 46,000-square-foot Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, which opened in November 2012.
“On behalf of the MSU community, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Michael Rush,” President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “In the short time we were fortunate enough to call Michael a colleague, he had a profound impact on the university through his work with the Broad museum and in the art community. The future accomplishments of the museum staff will always reflect the foundation he built."
Rush was key to establishing the museum’s dedication to exploring global contemporary culture and ideas through art and serving as both an educational resource for the campus community and a cultural hub for the mid-Michigan region.
"We knew we were building something very special, and knew we needed someone very special to lead it – someone we could trust to define the new museum’s mission and direction,” said June Youatt, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "We needed a proven expert from the contemporary art world. Michael was all that and more. We are saddened by his passing but very grateful for the time he spent with us. He will be missed."
Eli and Edythe Broad, longtime supporters of the university who provided the lead gift of $28 million for the museum and an additional $5 million for an endowment named after Rush, said MSU will greatly miss Rush’s leadership.
"Michael Rush was a visionary founding director of The Broad Art Museum at MSU who set a high bar for innovative exhibitions and programming," said Eli Broad. "Edye and I are heartbroken that we have lost such a great leader, but we are immensely appreciative of the dedication and commitment he demonstrated during the past two and a half years to making the museum an integral part of the East Lansing community and a world-class destination."
A prodigious essayist and art critic as well as a sought-after public speaker, Rush was a passionate admirer and rigorous advocate for the traditional arts. Additionally he was recognized internationally as a keen observer of developments in the time-based arts, performance, video and new media art. He was the author of pioneering surveys on these subjects, most notably “New Media in Late 20th Century Art” (1999), “Video Art” (2003, 2007) and “New Media in Art “(2005), all published by Thames and Hudson.
Before coming to MSU, Rush served as the director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University near Boston, where he oversaw a significant collection of modern and contemporary art in the region and was widely recognized for his leadership during a controversial and successful effort to legally prevent the university from selling its collection and close the museum.
He previously served as founding director of the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art and lectured internationally on art and museum practice. He had received awards from the International Association of Art Critics for his curatorial projects and was the co-founder of the Contemporary Art Museum Directors Association. In 2014 he was awarded The Charles A. Gliozzo International Award for Public Diplomacy from the MSU Office of International Studies and Programs.
Prior to his work in the art museum field, Rush was an experimental theater artist, founder of New Haven Artists’ Theater and was long associated with New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. Early in his career, he was a Jesuit priest and psychologist, serving at Bellevue Hospital and on the faculty of psychiatry at New York University after receiving his doctorate from Harvard University in 1980.
Rush is survived by his spouse Hyun-Jae Pi and his siblings Mary Ann Rush Hertig, Joseph Peter Rush and Deborah Rush Cronkite.
A public memorial service was held on June 14 at 2pm at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. Click here for more information.