Broad Art Lab Closes Its Doors

Print More

Dylan Lees for ELi

The MSU Broad Lab has permanently closed its doors.

If you’ve walked or driven past 565 E. Grand River Ave. lately, you may have noticed a “For Lease” sign in the window. That’s because the MSU Broad Art Lab’s collaborative space that once welcomed makers, innovators, and lifelong learners, has shut its doors. 

While the upcoming Art Lab’s workshops have been canceled, MSU Broad Art Museum Executive Director, Monica Ramirez-Montagut says the space did fulfill its intended mission.

“The Art Lab was, in its origin, a five-year project,” she said. “It was funded by the MSUFCU, as an incubator for ideas with some seed money for five years. I don’t think we were clear enough when we opened the Art Lab, in communicating this was a five-year project.”

Ramirez-Montagut says MSUFCU provided funding beginning in December 2016, which was set to expire this past December. Unfortunately, two years of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the Art Lab to be closed for nearly a year and the cancellation of many in-person studio workshops and events. With the loss of Art Lab Studio Educator Britta Urness, who took another position teaching out-of-state, and the four to six-month process for hiring new staff, Ramirez-Montagut says they decided to close the Art Lab recently.

“It’s been two really tough years for venues meant to do hands-on activities and bring communities together,” she said. “We were not able to use the Art Lab in that matter. We’ve had to be very flexible, adapt and be responsive to when we’ve been able to open, we’ve had to close, and adjust the whole museum’s logistics and operations.”

Despite community upset over the space closing, Ramirez-Montagut said it’s important to remember that the Art Lab’s mission was fulfilled. 

“The reason why MSUFCU supported the initiative of the Art Lab was for us to be able to engage our communities that were not coming across the street to the museum, to do more hands-on activities, to have a community feel welcome, and have an exchange with art in a way that they feel comfortable,” said Ramirez-Montagut.

“We learned a lot from the Art Lab that we are actually doing a lot of those activities across the street in the museum,” she continued. “Several of the goals that the Art Lab had when we launched it five years ago, we actually met, like engaging with communities, being accessible, and welcoming diverse audiences. Right now, a lot of the activities that gave origin to the Art Lab are actually taking place now inside the Broad Art Musuem, so we met our objectives there.”

Ramirez-Montagut said the Art Lab and MSU Broad Museum were, in a way, duplicating their programs. As for the space, she is unsure what the owner of the building has planned to replace the lab. 

“I think a lot of the storefronts are going through similar situations where rents are so high, and not being able to meet the purpose of those spaces has had an impact on all of us,” she told ELi. 

The owner of the property, Cron Management, told ELi that they had spoke to representatives about finding a way to keep Art Lab open, but they were told that two years of the pandemic had left the University in a tough financial position and facing staffing shortages like many other businesses.

“It is very unfortunate that the downtown and the community are losing the Art Lab,” Cron told ELi. “It is one of the few businesses directly related to MSU that is across Grand River.”

As for a possible future iteration of the Art Lab, Ramirez-Montagut doesn’t envision that happening soon. 

“We are thinking of some kind of pop-ups here and there around downtown,” she said. “We have a good partnership with the City of East Lansing, and right now we have images of our permanent artworks on view on Albert Street, by the colorful parking ramp. When we have a project that would be pertinent to engage the urban landscape of East Lansing, then we will of course explore with the appropriate partners.”

The Art Lab expresses appreciation for its visitors, and funding from MSUFCU to utilize this incubator program. 

“That level of funding experimentation is exactly how we make a community dynamic and make a community thrive,” Ramirez-Montagut said. “To be able to afford for us the privilege and honor to experiment and do things in a new way, and let that take its own course, for that, we are very grateful to MSUFCU for funding this space where we learned so much.  Now we are seeing all of that success be incorporated at the MSU Broad Art Museum in perpetuity.  We were very fortunate and very thankful for that.”

“It’s a good thing that as we are sunsetting the Art Lab, we can say in fact, that our communities are actually being incorporated and reflected in the content and exhibitions, and considered key opinion leaders and content partners with the exhibitions that we now do at the MSU Broad Art Museum. “

Emily Joan Elliott contributed to reporting.

Comments are closed.