Brandeis University claims that the Rose Art Museum will continue to function in its original capacity. The museum’s Board of Overseers thinks differently, however. Earlier this week as a University-appointed Committee for the Future of the Rose continued its deliberations, Brandeis insisted that the museum would remain open. The statement followed nearly three months’ worth of widespread public criticism following Brandeis’s announcement that it would close the museum and sell nearly 6,000 pieces from its collection in order to offset the school’s estimated $10 million budget deficit.
In a press release sent earlier this morning by a representative of the Rose family, the museum’s board challenged a statement made by Brandeis University on April 17th, in which it insisted that “the Rose Art Museum will remain a museum.” On June 30th Michael Rush, the museum’s Executive Director, will be severed along with other Rose employees; Brandeis has repositioned its remaining staff, but a new Executive Director has not been named. Additionally, the university appointed its Committee for the Future of the Rose without consulting directly with the museum itself. These and other recent developments seem to indicate that the Rose Museum is more deeply troubled than Brandeis University is portraying it to be.
Art in America spoke with Meryl Rose, a member of the Rose’s Board of Overseers and a relative of the original museum founders, about the University’s statements and the future of the institution.
ART IN AMERICA: What brought you to release the press statement issued today?
MERYL ROSE: We’ve been trying to fight what’s been going on as best we can. The administration and president of Brandeis keep changing the conversation; they call it different things, but they haven’t changed their original plan on January 26th. So what we’re trying to do is to bring this to light, and to show people that the Rose is not in fact okay. It’s not going to remain a public art museum as it is now. I don’t know what you call it but you couldn’t call it a public art museum. It’s not doing any of the things that a good museum does. There are things inherent to running a museum that Brandeis has completely stopped doing.
AiA: The press release indicates that $2.5 million in dues and donations have not been accepted since the time they released that statement.
MR: Approximately $500,000 is dues and donations raised by the board of overseers have completely stopped [being paid]. Michael Rush is a fabulous fundraiser and has done a great job for us. There was a $2 million dollar gift, and the person who gave it is asking for it back — it was someone who had given a great deal in the past. I sit on the collection committees on the Board of Overseers. We had a meeting just a few weeks before the announcement on the 26th of January and we were excitedly discussing the next pieces [of art] we were planning to buy. The board is invested in the art that we’re purchasing for the museum – we all planned to put money in [for the works] as we usually do when we buy art. All of that has stopped. We had an unveiling of a gorgeous triptych that was donated by one of our board members and two weeks later – “Oh! The museum is closing!” It’s really a horrific thing.
AiA: Can you take legal action against the University?
MR: We certainly think so. We are talking to lawyers and considering our next steps. We
haven’t decided exactly what they will be, but there will be next steps.
AiA: Are any additional measures being taken by the Rose Art Museum?
MR: We’ve met with Attorney General and we are consulting with lawyers. We would love to see the original documents, which we have not been able to get our hands on yet. But we will.
AiA: Can you tell us about these documents?
MR: We have seen the will of Edward Rose, for example. And it’s clear: In his will, the money was left for a public art museum at Brandeis University to be called the Rose Art Museum. [The University] is still trying to call it the Rose Art Museum while changing it into something else. We haven’t seen any other documents that there might be relative to the trust of the Rose Art Museum. They are not in Brandeis’s archives for some reason and no one has been able to find them.
[Paddy Johnson is the editor of Art Fag City and Art in America’s news correspondent. For earlier coverage on the subject, see Art in America‘s March issue.]