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The Miracle Mile community is mourning the loss of former Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) president and director Andrea Rich, who died on Monday at the age of 71.
She led LACMA from 1995 to 2005 and is credited with increasing the institution’s endowment from $50 million to $100 million during her tenure.
“Andrea had a long and accomplished career at UCLA prior to coming to LACMA,” LACMA CEO Michael Govan said in a staff announcement on Tuesday. “She brought to the museum her strong administrative skills which helped to chart the course for LACMA’s future. Thanks to Andrea, LACMA shored up its finances, ramped up its commitment to education and community programs, and initiated its transformation campaign.”
During her time at LACMA, the museum acquired “numerous significant” collections of Korean, Modern and Latin American art, he said.
“It was also under Andrea Rich that the museum envisioned an ambitious future, first with a proposed building by Rem Koolhaas, and subsequently with a collaboration with Renzo Piano that ultimately resulted in the campus we have today,” Govan said. “Andrea had a significant impact on the history and future of this museum. I know I speak on behalf of many of you when I acknowledge with gratitude the foundations she laid for LACMA, upon which we are still building.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adjourned in her memory at the request of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, who knew her for at least 35 years.
“I knew her at UCLA when she was executive vice chancellor and basically the alter ego to Chancellor Charles Young,” he said during the meeting. “I knew her when she came to run the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as its president and worked closely with her over all of the years she served there. And I think it pays to say that Andrea took a floundering museum that was in financial trouble and turned it around and positioned it to do the kinds of things that it’s poised to do at present.”
Without Rich’s “disciplined and tough-minded” policies, the museum wouldn’t be in that position today, Yaroslavsky said. He said she was a “brilliant, funny, committed, take-no-prisoners” kind of person.
“Even when she was at the museum, she was not unwilling to take on some very powerful interests who did not have the museum’s best interests … at heart,” he added. “She did the same at UCLA. She did the same in various committees and boards that she served on, including the Blue Ribbon Commission that Supervisor [Gloria] Molina appointed her to on child safety.”
Yaroslavsky said Rich will be “sorely missed.” He also stated that she had just celebrated her 71st birthday last week. While she died after a battle with leukemia, Rich had also suffered from a “serious” spinal problem for many years, the supervisor said.
“Even while she worked for [LACMA] for many of those years, she would come to work under the greatest duress,” Yaroslavsky added. “But [she] put in her full day’s work — more than a full day’s work.”
He said her leukemia diagnosis “came out of nowhere” about a month or so ago.
“It’s a great loss to the county on a whole lot of fronts. …Andrea Rich was a very important person in the history of this community,” Yaroslavsky concluded.
According to a press release, Rich was a scholar of intercultural and interracial communications and rose from an assistant professorship to become UCLA’s executive vice chancellor during three decades of service to the university.
At UCLA, she helped improve undergraduate education, increase support for teaching, renovate instructional facilities and restructure the university’s professional schools and academic programs, the release states.
After leaving the university, she was still involved on campus. Rich offered to organize a reception for new chief executive Gene Block in 2007 and made sure that he felt at home. “I will always be grateful for the effort she made to really roll out the welcome wagon,” Block said in the release. “It’s a testament to her warmth as well as to her loyalty to UCLA as an institution that she would reach out to me and others in such a way.”
Rich is survived by two sons, Anthony and Robert; a brother, Robert Beck; and a granddaughter, Alexandra. According to the release, information on the memorial service is pending.
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