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Brandeis students protest art museum closure

Posted by Your Town  January 29, 2009 03:29 PM

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(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.”

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6 comments so far...
  1. It is a shame that the museum may need to be closed and the collections sold off. The alternative may be to reduce services, classes or increase tuition and fees. Neither option seems like it would be acceptable to students. I always find it a shame that wealthy donors always have money for big buildings with their names on them, but scholarship money always seems to be in short supply.

    Posted by Andy Medford January 29, 09 04:47 PM
  1. More than Madoff and Rubin, Reinharz and the trustees bankrupted Brandeis - financially, academically, and morally - by betraying the trust of generations of past donors, removing a collection which brought the art world's scholars from afar, and most tragically, by forever removing one the great incentives for future donors worldwide to choose Brandeis as the guardian of their treasures.

    Now, unless the Rose is made a perpetual museum beyond the reach of administration shylocks - Brandeis future donations will plunge permanently - destroying the great opportunity of a diverse Jewish voice in the wilderness.

    Posted by David Shapira January 29, 09 08:16 PM
  1. "She said she agreed with an assessment she had heard that the loss of the Rose would make Brandeis a 'second rate institution.'"

    These tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. If the attitude changes to one of cutting the most expendable element of the school--as unfortunate as that is--then the self-fulfilling prophecy will be a positive one. As it is, this negativity is useless and will lead us nowhere helpful.

    Posted by Gideon January 30, 09 02:23 AM
  1. I very much agree with Gideon. This article's emphasis on the negative tone of Rush creates a sense of hopelessness. Rush is in his right to feel absolutely hopeless considering how he was treated by the administration but there has been an outpouring of hope and determination to rethink this hasty decision on the part of the student body, faculty, alumni, donors, and art lovers unaffiliated with Brandeis that should be emphasised instead. This is not a done deal. Just yesterday the faculty passed a resolution to investigate the Rose situation. There is hope and action being taken.

    Posted by john January 30, 09 09:59 AM
  1. I like Gideon's idea of "a perpetual museum beyond the reach of administration." That is surely the only way the Rose could have any viable future. And if the administration does get its way and flushes the museum down the tubes, my greatest hope is that the (so-called) university follows right behind.

    Posted by Charles January 30, 09 05:30 PM
  1. The last comment is entirely unfair. As a Brandeis graduate, I, too, am saddened by the decision to close the Rose. I do not, however, feel that the university should or will "go down the tubes" as Charles as stated, to make penance for the decision to put the academic enterprise first.

    Posted by Julie February 2, 09 02:14 PM