(Globe photo/Matthew J. Lee)
Robyn Blumberg, a Brandeis sophomore, in front of a Roy Lichtenstein work during today's protest at the Rose Art Museum.
By Lisa Kocian, Globe Staff
About 200 people, mostly Brandeis University students, gathered at the Rose Art Museum today to protest plans to close the renowned contemporary art collection.
Students lamented what the museum closure and collection sell off would mean for the prestige of the young university, the quality of its liberal arts education, and the future of the student-administration relationship, thanks to what many deemed an abrupt decision announced Monday.
“I feel abandoned, I feel alienated and disillusioned by this whole thing,” said Beccah Ulm, a studio art major who organized the protest, as she took her turn at a microphone set up on the museum’s main floor.
Michael Rush, the museum’s director, was greeted with applause as soon as he stepped to the microphone but had a dire prognosis for the museum.
“The Rose is over,” he said. “The Rose as we’ve known it is over.”
Even if there were hope of saving the museum, no donors would be willing to give money or art after what has unfolded this week, he said. Rush found out about the closure on Monday.
The Rose, which houses a $350 million collection including works by Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, has become “much bigger than Brandeis,” he said.
Rush called it a “historically horrendous decision,” that would diminish Brandeis.
He said although he doesn’t think students will be successful in keeping the museum open, he encouraged them to work towards a better future for the university.
“Fight on kids and march on,” he said. “Keep the Brandeis dream alive.”
As students poured into the museum this afternoon, Jenna Leigh Rosenbloom, a Brandeis art major, stood with a friend looking at a serene photograph of the Pacific Ocean displayed near the entrance. She said she agreed with an assessment she had heard that the loss of the Rose would make Brandeis a “second rate institution.”
“Brandeis has so much pride in itself becoming a prestigious institution in a short period of time, and I think that is contingent on being culturally relevant,” she added.
Brandeis officials issued a statement in response to the protest.
“Like higher education institutions everywhere, Brandeis University today faces formidable economic challenges and extremely difficult decisions,” according to the statement sent by email. “Regardless of the circumstances, Brandeis encourages freedom of expression as a vital part of the educational experience.”