ART & CIVIL RIGHTS
From left, Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art; Congressman Bennie Thompson; and Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President of Tougaloo College.
A PARTNERSHIP OF
The Art and Civil Rights Initiative is a multi-year partnership, begun in Fall 2017, leveraging the art collections of both the Mississippi Museum of Art (the Museum) and Tougaloo College (Tougaloo) to foster community dialogue about civil rights issues, past and present.
The Initiative, which supports new exhibitions, dynamic programming, and evolving scholarship, is made even more powerful given Mississippi’s place as ground zero for much of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century.
Components of the initiative include:
A shared position - Curator of Art & Civil Rights - to increase scholarship, teach students, and develop exhibitions
A series of four exhibitions over two years, rotating between the Museum and Tougaloo, exploring artistic perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement
A lecture series that will accompany each exhibition featuring nationally recognized scholars
Interpretive tools for the exhibitions, including a gallery guide and explanatory text panels
A paid internship program supporting four Tougaloo students annually, who will work for the Tougaloo Art Gallery and the Museum
Collections documentation for the Tougaloo Art Collection, transforming the capacity for new scholarship and impact
The Mississippi Museum of Art, an accredited art museum in Jackson, Mississippi, was born of a state art association in 1911 and has operated since 1978 as a professional museum. Its first exhibition as a professional museum was a selection of works from Tougaloo College’s art collection. The Museum has committed itself to honoring the power of place and the transformative potential of art to strengthen communities and foster greater empathy. Over the past 15 years, as part of that call to action, the Museum has produced public programs and exhibitions that explore the seminal events of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Tougaloo College, founded in 1869, played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did it protect activists and stand for justice in the 1960s, Tougaloo also harbored visionary German art historian, Ronald Schnell, who immigrated from Eastern Europe and began teaching at the College in 1959. Schnell, sensitive to crimes of intolerance, 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 modern art critic Dore Ashton, the New York Art Committee for Tougaloo College (formed in 1963), grew a significant collection of art by a wide variety of artists, both African-American and white,including artists such as Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Alexander Calder, Hans Hofman, Henri Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Betty Parsons, Pablo Picasso, Hale Woodruff, and many others. The collection, one of the largest in the state after that of the Mississippi Museum of Art, continues to bring pride to the college. Exhibitions are displayed in the Tougaloo Art Gallery, in the Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center.
Mississippi has been a place stained by racial injustice as well as the setting of major progress in addressing legal and social barriers to equality. As evidenced by recent acts of violence spurred by racial intolerance and segregation in other locations across our country and beyond its borders, these issues are not simply historical ones.
For arts organizations and institutions – like the Museum and Tougaloo – that understand the power of art to deepen sympathies and create new understanding, that aspire to lead progress in creating a more civil society, and that are located at the setting of major events in American consciousness related to the Civil Rights Movement, the time is right to stake claim in continuing conversations about societal challenges through the lens of visual art.
Art builds connected bridges to our common humanity. [This is work] begun more than fifty years ago, and still needed so critically today, as we continue to mend a divided nation.
- Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, President, Tougaloo College
This is not only about looking backwards at history and the Civil Rights Movement. This is a story of redemption that is desperately needed right now. Art is the ultimate expression of hope. Of belief in an individual human eye and hand to craft and articulate a better, more civil world.
- Betsy Bradley, Director, Mississippi Museum of Art