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Wednesday, November 7,2012

Donor Profiles

by Lawrence Cosentino

Donor Profile: Louise McCagg

Redemption through art

Sculptor Louise McCagg has a personal reason for donating to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

“We have our experience with the Michael Heizer piece,” she said.

McCagg lives and works in New York, but she graduated from MSU with a master’s in fine arts and lived in East Lansing for 20 years. She witnessed the most infamous episode in Lansing’s art history, the rise and fall of the monumental sculpture “This Equals That,” by internationally renowned sculptor Michael Heizer.

When Heizer’s huge array of geometric forms was installed in the State Capitol Complex in 1980, funded by state and private funds, it was an international draw for art tourism.

“I watched it being built,” McCagg said. “It was the largest art piece at the time in the United States — here, in Lansing.”

Gov. William G. Milliken approved the selection, commenting that he didn’t want to plant “another politician on a horse” downtown.

The sculpture rested on a plaza west of the state Capitol for 22 years before being dismantled — and damaged — in 2002. The Lansing State Journal mocked it. The sculpture was dumped in a field in Mason and was last seen in a Detroit warehouse.

“I was shocked,” McCagg said. “There were people in the East Lansing community who were shocked, but there were not enough people in the community to take care of that piece.”

Will the Broad Museum help to erase the stigma of that episode? McCagg didn’t say for sure, but the idea was on her mind when she opened her checkbook for the Broad.

“Having Zaha Hadid do the building was a great incentive [to donate],” she said. “I thought about people in the community and how they were not particularly supportive of the Michael Heizer piece.”

By donating to the Broad, McCagg also wants to celebrate architect Zaha Hadid and the strong presence of women in art and architecture.

“She is recognized as being sumptuous, kind of a genius. It reminds me of all the women who were not given jobs as architects.”

McCagg uses old casting and sculpting techniques to take on contemporary issues. The New York Times praised her as an artist “with real flair” and creator of “quirky, troubling [and] oracular” work.

After getting her degree at MSU, McCagg set up shop in a geodesic dome she built with help from friends and her husband, Bill McCagg, a Russian and East European history professor. There she cast a life-size sculpture called “Beatrice,” which stands in the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

“Familiar Faces,” a bronze pillar studded with half-size life masks of local artists and arts supporters, was commissioned by the city of East Lansing and stands near City Hall.

She gets mixed reviews from other critics.

“I have twin nephews in Ann Arbor, and one of them looks a special look at his brother across the table: ‘Does Aunt Louise have to do this creepy stuff?’”


Donor Profile: Edward & Julie Minskoff
Risk and beauty

In his mid-20s, Edward Minskoff came to New York City with a Chevy and $2,500 — and a degree in economics from MSU.

He became one of the builders of modern (and postmodern) New York.

By now, Minskoff has leased, built and developed tens of millions of square feet in Manhattan, including the World Financial Center and 590 Madison Avenue, also known as the IBM building.

He’s not just a numbers man. Minskoff loves art and he likes to build beautiful buildings. This year, he hired Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki to plant an elegant glass and granite office tower at the heart of New York’s Astor Place.

As a behind-the-scenes adviser to MSU’s Broad Museum project, Minskoff helped guide the early process of winnowing dozens of architectural firms to the five that competed at MSU.

As a developer, Minskoff has plunged more than once into uncertain markets. He raised eyebrows by building the Astor Place tower on “spec,” without a buyer’s contract. He appreciates MSU’s leap into the unknown, and he’s happy enough with the results that he and his wife, Julie, donated $2 million to the Broad.

“Zaha Hadid came up with a great design, and it’s finally transitioned into a beautiful building,” Minskoff said.

“It adds another credit to the institution’s ability to grow.”

The Minskoffs have an extensive art collection, with dozens of works by artists like Picasso, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning.

Minskoff conceded that there is a “lack of understanding” of contemporary art in the broader public. In a way, MSU is building the museum on “spec,” not financially, but culturally. Minskoff urged museum-goers to keep an open mind.

“There’s going to be a lot of different art in this museum,” he said. “You might not like every piece but you might love some pieces.”

Minskoff considers art to be a crucial catalyst for the exchange of ideas, and predicted many lively discussions at the museum and on the way home. “You’re going to have 10 people looking at the same picture and each of them are having a different opinion of it,” he said. “Everyone has a different vision of what they’re experiencing.”

Minskoff admitted that when he was an undergraduate at MSU, he “probably wasn’t as focused on the cultural aspects” of campus life as he might have been.

“But now, to have the student body exposed to a museum of this quality, and have the advantages it affords, is spectacular.”

Although Minskoff’s own architectural taste tends more toward earthy materials like stone and glass, he’s pleased with the steel-clad angles of the Broad Museum.

“It has architectural integrity,” he said. “I hope everybody appreciates it, and I hope the university gets its due for being forward-thinking and taking the risk they did in getting this thing completed.”


Donor Profile: Mark & Nancy Hollis
A different perspective

An enthusiastic donor to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum has some advice for Spartan head basketball coach Tom Izzo.

“Sometimes it’s good for a coach, who can, at times, think of nothing but a round ball, to be exposed to other things,” Izzo’s boss, MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis, said.

“That’s what art’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to change your thought process, let you appreciate new things.”

There are many reasons Hollis and his wife, Nancy, set aside a substantial chunk of a recent $1 million donation to MSU for the museum.

“If you have a good athletic department alone, it doesn’t make for a good university,” Hollis said. “It’s a campus, a collection of things being good.”

As the museum took shape, Hollis went through the same “thought processes” many of his friends did.

“I’ve heard it from more and more people,” he said. “They started out with, ‘What the heck is that?’ and got to ‘That’s pretty cool.’ Including me.”

He got more excited after a tour of the galleries.

“Once you walk inside, it’s a whole different perspective. The windows, the sight lines are unique. It separates your mind from everything going on around you.”

Nancy Hollis calls herself an art “novice,” but she loves the building.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “You come down Grand River and wow, there it is.”

Mark Hollis has already taken MSU sports into some unusual places, like last year’s MSU-North Carolina basketball game on the U.S. Navy supercarrier Carl Vinson. Now he and Pat Haden, the athletic director of the University of Southern California and a Rhodes scholar, are mixing sports and ancient history to put together a latter-day Spartan-Trojan game in an ancient venue in Greece.

Hollis is wide open to doing athletic-cultural mashups at the Broad.

“You could have an athletic event with an art component that’s fun, that engages people to be part of the art,” he said.

Both Hollises grew up and went to school in Michigan. They welcome the Broad Museum as a new point of pride for the area, along with the Capitol, the MSU campus and the Great Lakes.

“It will make people want to come here, want to live here, retire here,” Nancy Hollis said. “It will open minds of young people.”

Hollis said Izzo is game to jump into the athletic-cultural mix in some way, especially after headlining his “Izzo Goes to Broadway” extravaganza.

“Tom Izzo is sort of an ambassador for mid-Michigan,” Hollis said. “There’s a segment of people that would be lured by his presence into an environment where they probably have never thought to go before.”

It doesn’t hurt that Izzo’s wife, Lupe, and daughter, Rocky, are into art. And there’s one more draw.

“I noticed that the museum has hardwood floors,” Hollis said.

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