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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 79 initiatives for all audiences, especially se- niors,” says Kate D. Levin, commissioner of cultural affairs for New York City. “Donald is fascinating and perplex- ing, one of the most complicated people I have ever tried to figure out,” says Karen Kedmey, former manager of media rela- tions at RMA. It’s impossible to know how much of his intense personality was determined by his family’s tragic cir- cumstances. He is descended from Pol- ish and Russian Jews. His father came to the United States at twenty-one before the war. All the rest of his family was lost in the Holocaust. As he told the Washington Post, “...every brother, sister, nephew, and niece was exterminated. I was a ten-year- old at the end of the war, and I watched my father’s anguish as he tried and tried to find them.” The Rubin family was activist, social- ist, and pro-labor, and Rubin’s father was the chief figure in a drive to organize hotel workers in the thirties and soon became president of the New York Hotel Trades Council. Rubin says he and his father fought for union members by demanding and getting cost control for union health funds. In 1980, Rubin founded MultiPlan, a managed health care company. Through MultiPlan, Rubin says, he was able to cre- ate union health insurance packages that were more extensive, less costly, and more streamlined, and the cost savings were passed on to the workers through sal- ary increases. He grew MultiPlan into the arcane topics of tantric religious art. This is an educational feat, and I admire it.” DONALD RUBIN is 73, a tall and impos- ing man with deep, somewhat sad eyes. His first life, as a hard-nosed and savvy businessman, shows through in his sec- ond life as an art connoisseur and pa- tron. He is a person of strong emotion and relies on his intuition, on what he calls a “heart connection,” for guidance. He is deeply loyal to those he embraces, yet he can also be very tough. Lisa Schubert, former director of exter- nal affairs at RMA, says that everything at RMA has grown out of Donald and Shelley Rubin’s “original vision to make the ex- perience of the art relevant to people of all ages, religions, and backgrounds.” The Rubins see art as a powerful vehicle for understanding humanity, and for change. “By learning about other cultures,” says Rubin, “we also learn about our own cul- ture, something we know very little about, unfortunately.” The Rubins believe art should be avail- able to everyone, but with this kind of subject matter, some interpretation is re- quired. The entire second floor of the mu- seum is devoted to explaining what Hima- layan art is, how it is made, and what its purpose is. Tour guides tell stories rather than just lay out the facts. Special pro- grams have been created for underserved audiences: there are special gallery tours for the partially sighted and the hearing- impaired; tours in Mandarin and Spanish are available. Educational programs have been de- signed for all age groups, including a half-dozen classes for the very young. The popular body-movement class, “Moving through Art,” integrates, say, facial expres- sions or hand positions from the art into movement. For three years, the Rubin has produced “Peak Experience,” the ultimate sleepover for children aged ten to twelve. Forty boys and girls are roped together to scale the world’s most extreme terrain (which in reality is the museum’s stunning spiral staircase, covered with mounds of cotton wool snow and wrapped with a light, blowy fabric). They sleep “on the mountain,” amid loud, howling winds, then set off for the summit in the pre- dawn darkness. There are also programs for teen- agers and adults, but it’s the Rubin’s work with seniors, giving them free admission one day a month, that has gained spe- cial praise. In February, the City of New York selected the museum to announce its “SM(ART)S—Seniors Meet the Arts” program. “The Rubin Museum has dem- onstrated a strong commitment to access Opposite: The Buddhist teacher Pagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo, Tibet, thirteenth century. Above left: The fashionable K2 Lounge, where Tim McHenry creates special cocktails to complement the weekly film series. Above right: Rosanne Cash and El- vis Costello perform in the Rubin Theatre. PHOTOSBYMICHAELTOOLAN,RICHARDCONDE NOV 74-83.indd 79 NOV 74-83.indd 79 9/1/08 12:23:57 PM 9/1/08 12:23:57 PM