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MMA and Tougaloo College announce Art and Civil Rights Initiative

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Mississippi Museum of Art (the Museum) and Tougaloo College (the College) are pleased to announce the Art and Civil Rights Initiative (the Initiative), a multi-layered, multi-year partnership that leverages the art collections of both institutions to foster community dialogue and interpretation about civil rights issues, past and present. The Initiative, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, supports new exhibitions, dynamic programming, and evolving scholarship that is made even more powerful and relevant given Mississippi’s place as ground zero for much of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century.

The stated goals for the Art and Civil Rights Initiative include: leveraging the Museum’s experience and intellectual base in art and civil rights programs into a more permanent structure that continues to benefit all Mississippians; formalizing an ongoing partnership between the College and the Museum; increasing collective understanding of the influence of social causes on artists, and of artists on historical events; expanding the focus of the program from the American Civil Rights Movement to other national and international civil rights and social justice challenges; and increasing the capacity for compassion, understanding, and civil discourse in our communities.

“The Art and Civil Rights Initiative builds upon the Museum’s tradition of exploring and commemorating important Civil Rights events through visual art,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “Tougaloo College has a rich history of civil and social activism, and we’re honored to embark on this journey with them. The College’s incredible art collection – which the Museum first showcased in 1978 as part of its inauguration – provides additional resources and storylines to support cultural exchange and national dialogue at this important moment in American history.”

The Initiative includes: a shared staff position between the Museum and the College to increase scholarship, teach students, and develop exhibitions; a series of four exhibitions over two years, rotating between the two institutions and exploring artistic perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement; a series of lectures and workshops, featuring nationally recognized scholars, to accompany each rotating exhibition; a gallery guide, explanatory text panels, and other accompanying exhibition interpretive tools; an annual, paid internship program supporting four Tougaloo College students who will work for the Tougaloo Art Gallery and the Museum; and documentation and digitization for Tougaloo College’s art collection.

The Museum was born of a statewide art association in 1911 and has operated since 1978 as a professional museum. It has, in the past 15 years, produced public programming and exhibitions that examine seminal events of the Civil Rights Movement through art, such as exhibitions commemorating the 50th anniversaries of the 1961 Freedom Riders (many of whom were arrested in Jackson); the assassination of Medgar Evers; and 1964’s Freedom Summer.

Tougaloo College, a historically black college, was founded in 1869 as a land-grant college. It was at the epicenter of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, cultivating racial reconciliation and serving as a safe haven for activists and speakers. During the Movement, the College harbored Ronald Schnell, a German art historian, who responded to his new home state’s turmoil by putting out a call to artists across the country for donations of artwork. Under the leadership of the modern art critic Dore Ashton, the New York Art Committee for Tougaloo College (formed in 1963) amassed a significant collection of art by a wide variety of both African American and white artists. The collection continues to bring pride to the College.

The Museum and the College will now apply learnings from those activities and experience to more systematic, ongoing, and permanently endowed programs that reach the diverse communities they serve. This partnership comes as a precursor to the milestone of the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson in December 2017, the nation’s first state-funded civil rights museum. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is a program of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, a steadfast partner of the Mississippi Museum of Art. This relationship will further augment goals of civil rights dialogue and support the activities of the Initiative.

“Tougaloo College is excited about our collaborative partnership with the Mississippi Museum of Art, focusing on the Art and Civil Rights Project which was recently funded by the Henry Luce Foundation,” said Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President of Tougaloo College. “This project provides the opportunity for the college to work closely with the Museum to exhibit some of its remarkable art from the Civil Rights era, and to share a staff person to assist in the preservation of our art pieces, including cataloging and digitizing the art and offering student internships. This is a strategic partnership that we believe will be mutually beneficial to our institutions and community.”

About the Henry Luce Foundation

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. The Foundation builds upon the vision and values of four generations of the Luce family: broadening knowledge and encouraging the highest standards of service and leadership. The Foundation seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.

Photo Caption: From left, Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art; Congressman Bennie Thompson; and Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President of Tougaloo College.