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Contemporary art museum rises on Michigan State campus


Photo By: Eren Gknar/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Eren Gknar/Special To The Town Crier A traditional brick building on the Michigan State University campus, above, presents a stark contrast with the sharp, modern lines of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Lansing, Michigan’s capital, also offers a host of outdoor activities, including the Lansing River Trail, above left.

Summer is a great time of year to visit the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Mich., which opened last November.

With the Michigan State University campus devoid of its usual 50,000 students, visitors are free to explore the pleated stainless steel and glass trapezoidal structure at leisure.

It is also the ideal season to experience the greenery of mid-Michigan’s peaceful river trails, parks and nature centers.

An English professor would have an easy time assigning a “compare and contrast” paper to students visiting The Broad for the first time.

The Broad sits adjacent to a standard brick classroom structure typical of the first university built by land grants in 1855. By contrast, the museum, with its silver walls that appear to lack windows and doors from a distance, looks like a futuristic space ship.

The museum’s zigzagging, slanted sides – designed by London-based architect Zaha Hadid – make for perfect interior wall spaces on which to display abstract art. Hadid, a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, created a contemporary art museum symbolizing dynamism to hold cutting-edge pieces.

Philanthropist endows alma mater

Named after the building’s primary benefactor, philanthropist and Michigan State alumnus Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, The Broad inherited the former Kresge Art Museum’s collections.

The Kresge’s permanent works range from Greek and Roman pieces to Renaissance and modern works. Sculptors Alexander Calder, Ann Hamilton and Chuck Close are represented.

Broad, 80, built two Fortune 500 companies, including Kaufman and Broad, which later became KB Homes, building houses without basements, a Michigan anomaly. He later expanded into life insurance with SunAmerica Inc., which was purchased by AIG Inc. As a philanthropist, he was founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The Broads also operate a “lending library” of their private collection through the Broad Art Foundation.

Since its grand opening last year, The Broad has attracted a steady crowd. More than 73,000 people have visited, some drawn by the various concerts, films and lectures presented to support the artists’ works. Community outreach is key.

Founding director Michael Rush, former director of Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum and the Palm Beach Institute of Art, publishes and lectures on art topics and hosts an Internet art radio program.

Monthly weekend family education days include hands-on activities related to the exhibitions. A recent program offered an iPad scavenger hunt.

“Blind Field,” an exhibition on obstruction of perception featuring 21 Brazilian artists, opened this month and runs through Sept. 8. Bikers can join a free ride from the Capitol Building to The Broad July 26 to discuss how perceptions of buildings differ depending on alternative modes of transportation.

A museum cafe and store overlook the sculpture gardens, but if you want dinner, head to Lansing’s historical Old Town.

 

A city in flux

With the new Broad in town, Lansing appears to be in flux.

On the way to visit the museum, I had a hard time crossing the main drag to reach the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau. Trucks and hard-hatted construction workers blocked the road as the wind showered me with tiny black particles. Brushing myself off, I muttered, “Why do they have to do that now?”

Siri, a Convention & Visitors Bureau volunteer, said, “Because there’s only two seasons in Lansing: winter and road construction.”

In addition to touring The Broad, Lansing offers canoe and kayak rentals on the Red Cedar and Grand rivers. The city’s Class A minor league baseball team, the Lansing Lugnuts, plays all summer. Their mascot is a dinosaur named “Big Lug.”

Old Town, a quaint area on the bank of the Grand River, is home to a wide variety of shops, galleries and restaurants. A local resident recommended Aggie Mae’s Bakery, famous for its chocolate cupcakes.

Old Town likes to party – it hosts 111 festivals a year – but it’s also on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Turner-Dodge House & Heritage Center, built circa 1858. The Lansing River Trail runs nearby, wending 13 miles throughout the area.

Pop in to some of Old Town’s antique stores, like April’s Antiques or Love, Betti, for midcentury finds that won’t take your entire paycheck. Of course, there is that little problem of getting that curio cabinet home. I found some retro giftwrap for $5 that satisfied my craving for the 1960s.

For more information, visit www.broadmuseum.msu.edu or www.lansing.org.

Two tips: Lansing, Mich.

As the capital of Michigan and home to the mighty Big Ten Michigan State Spartans, Lansing offers a wide array of accommodations and restaurants. Following are two highlights.

• For a bed-and-breakfast experience, The Wild Goose Inn at 512 Albert Ave. offers an artsy place to stay. It boasts six suites in two houses – The Goose and The Gosling. Room names match the decor: Summer Safari, Autumn Arbor, Winter Eden. A community deck with cafe tables and a fire pit joins the two houses.

Amenities include Jacuzzi tubs, gas fireplaces, cable TV and Mission-style furnishings.

Rates start at $119 per night during the week, $159 on weekends, and include full breakfast.

For reservations and more information, visit www.wildgooseinn.com.

• Californians might miss the foodie scene, but try the Soup Spoon Cafe at 1419 E. Michigan Ave. for a perfectly tasty bistro-style menu. Specialties include the $10 blackened tenderloin salad with gorgonzola and the Mediterranean salad with salami.

The cafe alternates Michigan craft beers nightly and offers a wide assortment of wines. Beware of Saturday nights, though – you will need reservations.

For reservations and more information, visit www.soupspooncafe.com.

– By Eren Göknar

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