November Issue 2000
To Conserve a Legacy: American Art From Historically Black Colleges And Universities To Be Exhibited at Three Durham, NC, Venues
North Carolina Central University Art Museum (NCCU), Duke University Museum of Art (DUMA), and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (CDS), all located in Durham, NC, have forged a unique partnership in order to present an extraordinary exhibition To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The exhibitions will run through Dec. 3 as part of a seven-city national tour.
The exhibition and its national tour are made possible by AT&T and Ford Motor Company. In addition to making this exhibition and the national tour possible, AT&T and Ford Motor Company have also provided support for the conservation programs and the catalogue.
To Conserve a Legacy premiered at the Studio Museum of Harlem last year, and is co-organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art and the Studio Museum in association with the Williamstown Art Conservation Center and the following universities: Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Howard University, North Carolina Central University, and Tuskegee University.
Prior to arriving in Durham, the exhibition was on display in Atlanta, GA. "We are delighted to support this far-reaching initiative that connects people to the importance of African American art and its role in our nation's culture," said C. Michael Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AT&T. "We applaud the unprecedented partnership that is bringing these rich images to the public eye."
"It is an honor for Ford to be part of this ground breaking project," added William Clay Ford, Jr., Chairman of Ford Motor Company. "Ford has always been committed to supporting programs that explore our rich and diverse cultural heritage, and we applaud the many partners that have made "To Conserve a Legacy" possible."
The exhibition is divided into six sections, each exploring a major theme concerning history, legacy, and conservation. The six parts of the show will be divided among the three venues.
On display at Duke University Museum of Art can be seen American Expressionism, which traces the development of this major stylistic movement. Many African Americans participated by mirroring German Expressionism to create their own expressionistic vision of black life within American society in the early twentieth century. Works include Henry Wilmer Bannarn's sculpture Day Work and Otis Galbreath's Let By gones Be By gones. Also at DUMA will be; Modern Lives, Modern Impulses, which examines the way in which mid-twentieth century art facilitated new directions for African American artists. Works in this exhibit include Carnival from Archibald Motley and Swinging in the Park by Arthur Dove. Also on view at DUMA will be The American Portrait Gallery, which looks at the voice and empowerment that the visual arts gave to the black community during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Works in this section include Bedou's photographs of Booker T. Washington.
On view at North Carolina Central University Art Museum will be Forever Free: Emancipation Visualized, which explores the visual expressions and optimism found in the last portion of the nineteenth century through works such as NCCU's own Poplars, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Calla Lilies by Charles Demuth. Also at NCCU will be The First Americans, which examines the turn-of-the-century relationship between Native Americans and African Americans through works such as The Young Chief by Leigh Richmond Miner.
On exhibit at Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University will be Training the Head, the Hand, and the Heart, which showcases the efforts by the HBCUs to educate and prepare the black community for success, with a larger sense of mission and purpose. One of the featured works will be NCCU's "Palm Sunday" from the late Jacob Lawrence.
To Conserve a Legacy is a multi faceted project developed by a consortium of institutions to conserve, document, and exhibit nearly 200 important works of art drawn from the collections of six historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Many of the nation's HBCUs have amassed significant collections of American art and founded galleries and museums on their campuses. These collections provide a rich resource for the study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, with a special emphasis on African American art. To Conserve a Legacy encompasses an outstanding selection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures owned by the six HBCUs.
The exhibition will highlight African American art from each HBCU collection and place this work within the full historical context and stylistic range of art and culture. The works represent magnificent holdings of many great American artists, including Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, William Christenberry, Charles Demuth, Aaron Douglas, Arthur Dove, Robert Duncanson, Sam Gilliam, George Gross, Marsden Hartley, Lois Mailou Jones, Edmonia Lewis, Archibald Motley, Jr., Georgia O'Keeffe, Augusta Savage, Alfred Stieglitz, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Each component of To Conserve a Legacy has been designed to focus attention on the significant art collections that reside at the HBCUs, and to increase efforts to care for and preserve these important works so they may be more broadly used as educational and cultural resources.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Richard J. Powell, professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Duke University, along with Jock Reynolds, former Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art and current Director of the Yale University Art Gallery.
"The collections amassed by the HBCUs are a national treasure featuring the full scope of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, but one that has been sadly unknown to many people," said Dr. Powell. "To Conserve a Legacy showcases six of these magnificent collections, encompassing works by artists from Georgia O'Keeffe to Jacob Lawrence, to place African American art within a broader cultural, historical, and social context and allow audiences to build a deep appreciation and understanding of its role in the American art historical canon."
From Booker T. Washington's collection, begun in the 1870s, which forms the foundation for Tuskegee's collection, to the opening of NCCU's art museum in the 1970s, the fine arts programs of the HBCUs all share one key element: they were forums and repositories for the arts and scholarship of generations of African Americans before there were mainstream sites for these works and histories.
Clark Atlanta University began a tradition of fostering the arts in the 1940s with annual juried exhibitions that presented African American artists a unique forum for presenting their works. Each year the university collected works from the exhibitions, and by the time the annuals closed in 1970, Clark Atlanta had amassed an impressive collection of over 600 works spanning the twentieth century.
Fisk University began collecting art works almost from its founding in 1866. The collection is especially strong in the works of artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In 1949, Georgia O'Keeffe donated The Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern Art, a world-class collection encompassing the works of O'Keeffe, Stieglitz, Josef Albers, and Arthur Dove, among others.
Hampton University was founded in 1868, and began collecting the same year. The collection now includes more than 9,000 works. In 1894, Hampton became the first institution to establish a collection dedicated to African American art. For many years the museum was the only one in the South open to African Americans. In recent years, major exhibitions drawn from the collection have traveled to important venues nationwide.
Howard University established their art gallery in 1928, and the institution has a rich legacy of training many preeminent African American scholars and masters. The Gallery continues to serve as an important research facility for students and scholars nationwide, through its ambitious program of rotating exhibitions and installations from the permanent collection.
North Carolina Central University in Durham established its art museum in 1971 to house the school's own growing collection. NCCU was the nation's first black state-supported liberal arts college (1910) and founder James E. Shepard was aware of the cultural dimension that the fine arts could bring to the institution. In this context, the collection accordingly focuses on the work of emerging and established African American artists. Highlights from the nineteenth-century collection include works by Henry 0. Tanner, Robert S. Duncanson, and Edward M. Bannister. Twentieth-century artists represented include Romare Bearden, Selma Burke, Norman Lewis, and Charles White, among many others.
Tuskegee University was established in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, and became the foremost exponent of Industrial Education for African Americans. Washington himself began the renowned art collection shortly after the university was founded. Today, the collection includes works by such artists as Edmonia Lewis, William Harper, and William E. Scott, as well as an extraordinary collection of photographs and works on paper.
Conservation and Training Program
The Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC) has overseen the conservation component of the project, which has included the conservation of over 1,400 works. The professional training program for minority students will help bring new talent into the field of conservation and will also support the preservation and long-term care of these important works for future generations.
WACC worked closely with exhibition curators to identify the works for both treatment and display in the exhibition. WACC's team of conservators conducted thorough surveys of the HBCU collections to identify and prioritize potential treatment needs, and also provided recommendations for improving the care and maintenance of the collections.
A major component of the project was the conservation and collections care training program for minority students. Twelve students, chosen by the HBCUs, have participated in summer-long internships at WACC to learn about conservation and collections care, and then returned to their institutions to serve their collections during the academic year. By presenting these students with intensive conservation training, the project consortium hopes to encourage a new generation to seek careers in the field of conservation.
Julian Weaver was a junior art major when he was selected from North Carolina Central as part of the conservation project. The internship was awarded competitively by WACC, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Addison Gallery of American Art. Weaver returned to Durham and NCCU "enthused about the work of conservation, and with a new appreciation for the unique quality of our collection here at NCCU, and at the other schools as well," according to Kenneth Rodgers, Director of NCCU's Art Museum.
A fully illustrated catalogue, documenting each component of the project, has been published by the Addison Gallery of American Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem. The catalogue includes two major essays by the curators, placing the HBCU art collections and this collaborative project in an historical context and developing the six themes around which the exhibition was organized; an introduction by Kinshasha Holman Conwill, former Director, The Studio Museum in Harlem; and over 40 catalogue entries. The catalogue is distributed by MIT Press.
Profiles of each university collection; color reproductions of over 100 works, including "before-and-after" images and descriptions of the conservation methods used to preserve the works for future generations; and biographical information on all the represented artists are also included.
The project is co-organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Together, these institutions have worked closely with all consortium partners, the curatorial team, and other presenting venues to realize this enormous project showcasing the riches in the collections of many of this nation's HBCUs.
Following the premiere at the Studio Museum in Harlem, To Conserve a Legacy traveled to the Addison Gallery of American Art; Howard University Gallery of Art with The Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and Clark Atlanta University Art
Collections with The High Museum of Art. Following presentation in Durham at NCCU, DUMA, and CDS through Dec. 3 the exhibition will move to Fisk University Art Galleries with the Tennessee State Museum; and finally to the Hampton University Art Museum with the Chrysler Museum. The tour will end in July 2001.
Additional support has been generously provided by the Henry Luce Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; the LEE Foundation; the Greentree Foundation; the Joseph Harrison Jackson Foundation; and the Trellis Fund.
The Durham showing of To Conserve a Legacy is supported by the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.
Two museums are being used for this large touring exhibition by many of the cities, but Durham is the only city on the tour of To Conserve a Legacy that will utilize three venues. In addition to North Carolina Central University Art Museum, two separate venues at Duke University will participate in To Conserve a Legacy. They are the Center for Documentary Studies and the Duke University Museum of Art.
The Center for Documentary Studies, an interdisciplinary educational organization, is dedicated to advancing documentary work that combines experience and creativity with education and community life. Founded in 1989, CDS connects the arts and humanities to fieldwork, drawing upon photography, filmmaking, oral history, folklore, and writing as catalysts for education and change. CDS supports the active examination of contemporary society, the recognition of collaboration as central to documentary work, and the presentation of experiences that heighten our historical and cultural awareness. CDS achieves this work through academic courses, research, oral history and other fieldwork, gallery and traveling exhibitions, annual awards, book publishing, community-based projects, and public events.
The Duke University Museum of Art was founded in 1969 in the renovated Science Building on East Campus. Since that time, DUMA has developed diverse and significant collections in African art, Russian nineteenth-and twentieth-century art, Old Masters Paintings and Drawings, one of the largest holdings of pre-Columbian art in any university art museum, ancient art, and the renowned Brummer Collection of Renaissance and Medieval Art. Plans are rapidly proceeding for a new museum to be located at the intersection of Anderson and Campus Drive on a ten-acre site near the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The new building will be an architecturally significant facility designed by the internationally acclaimed New York based architect Rafael Viñoly. The building will feature a lecture hall, seminar rooms, increased gallery space designed to accommodate many campus events, a cafe, a 20,000 square-foot interior courtyard, greatly increased parking, and a park-like setting to encourage quiet contemplation of great works of art.
Since its founding in 1903, Ford Motor Company has supported arts institutions and cultural programs in the United States and around the world. As a global company with more than 400,000 employees, Ford is committed to creating opportunities that stimulate creativity and innovation, promote cultural diversity, and enhance the quality of life in our communities. To learn more about To Conserve a Legacy and other programs made possible by Ford Motor Company, visit (http://www.ford.com).
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