Director of Kresge Art Museum to Step Down

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Susan J. Bandes, director of Michigan State University’s Kresge Art Museum, will step down from that position to pursue research interests and teaching, effective May 1. Bandes will remain a full-time professor within the Department of Art and Art History.

“In Susan Bandes’ nearly a quarter of a century as director of the Kresge Art Museum she has doubled the size of the collection and the staff,” said Karin Wurst, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “Among her important contemporary acquisitions have been works by Joseph Cornell, Jim Nutt, Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, Edward Burtynsky and John Scott. She has greatly improved our collection of Dutch old masters as well with paintings by Jan van Goyen, Anthonie De Lorme, Jacob Van Loo and landscapes across the centuries.

“During Susan’s direction, the photography and print holdings were significantly expanded and the collection now totaling over 7,500 doubled in size. Additionally, she reconnected the Friends of Kresge, a large and active support group which recently raised $1 million toward the construction of the planned Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. She established the first endowment funds for the museum and has added to them to the point where we are able to make very significant acquisitions,” Wurst said.

Bandes began her career at MSU as director and professor in 1986. In addition to directing the museum, she was also responsible for creating academic links across the university to develop interdisciplinary programming, grant writing, fundraising, serving as liaison with the Friends of Kresge volunteer group and strategic planning. She served as curator for the museum’s holdings prior to the 19th century and of the print collection and as co-director of the Museum Studies Program.

“When I trained as an art historian I didn’t envision becoming director of an art museum,” Bandes said. “But the opportunity at the Kresge Art Museum turned into an experience of a lifetime. I had the chance to mold the collection, work with incredible staff and colleagues and meet fascinating collectors and supporters across the campus and far beyond. My approach has been to interpret the art we showed by placing it in a larger interdisciplinary context. Through this broader window, I feel lucky that as we educated the museum audience, I also had opportunities to constantly learn while always feasting my eyes.”

Bandes was responsible for bringing many exhibitions to the Kresge that responded to campuswide interdisciplinary and global initiatives including ongoing partnerships with Jewish Studies, Residential College in Arts and Humanities, American Studies and the MSU libraries. In addition, she initiated more unusual partnerships including an exhibit on Freud with the Department of Psychology and one on breast cancer with the medical schools.

Her numerous curatorial projects ranged from exhibits of ancient art to the current “American Modernism 1920s–1940s.” Her exhibit of Baroque paintings from the Detroit Institute of Arts which circulated in Michigan received wide acclaim. The exhibit on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Goetsch-Winkler House in Okemos in 1990 received national attention and will be the subject of a new book that she will be working on during her research assignment.

Bandes received a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University, a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in art history from Bryn Mawr College. She came to MSU from the J.Paul Getty Trust Grant Program. Prior to that, she held positions at the American Association of Museums and Sweet Briar College. Additionally, she has authored publications, presented public lectures and served on a variety of professional boards and associations including Heritage Preservation and the Michigan Humanities Council. Most recently, she was elected to the prestigious Print Council of America. At MSU she was chairperson of the university’s Collection Council and was a member of the Public Art on Campus Committee and the Cultural Engagement Council among others.

Wurst said a process for selection of the director of the future Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum will begin shortly.

A reception in recognition of Bandes’ work as director is being planned for later in the semester.

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