Michael Rush (1949–2015)

Michael Rush, the founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and an award-winning curator, author, and critic, died last weekend from cancer. Rush started at MSU in 2010 and was instrumental in the completion of the 46,000-square-foot contemporary art museum which opened in November 2012 and was designed by Zaha Hadid.

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 “Michael Rush was a visionary founding director of the Broad Art Museum at MSU who set a high bar for innovative exhibitions and programming…. 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.”

Before arriving at MSU, Rush served as the director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he oversaw a significant collection of modern and contemporary art in the region and was recognized for his leadership during a controversial and successful effort to legally prevent the university from selling its collection and closing the museum.

He also previously served as founding director of the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, received awards from the International Association of Art Critics for his curatorial projects, and was the cofounder 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 museums, Rush was a theater artist and founder of New Haven Artists’ Theater, in addition to a long association with New York’s La MaMa Experimental Theater Club. A memorial service is being planned for later this spring in New York City and the university will also be honoring his memory.