New Exhibition Showcases Art at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Academe, May/June 1999 | Go to article overview

New Exhibition Showcases Art at Historically Black Colleges and Universities


A NEW ART SHOW, TO CONSERVE A Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, sets out to persuade viewers that black art is a cultural bequest not just for African Americans but for everyone. In mounting the exhibition, which opened in April at the Harlem Studio Museum, the curators sought to merge the goals of scholars who want to place black art in the mainstream of American culture and those who seek to preserve its special meaning for African Americans.

The show highlights the art collections of six historically black universities: Clark Atlanta, Fisk, Hampton, Howard, North Carolina Central, and Tuskegee. The collections provide a rich resource for the study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, with a special emphasis on African American art.

Curators Richard J. Powell of Duke University and Jock Reynolds of Yale organized the exhibition's 260 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures into six themes. In the show's catalog Powell writes, "One hopes that after experiencing To Conserve a Legacy audiences will recognize the inherent universality in these art collections."

Historically black colleges and universities, many of which were founded following the Civil War to educate former slaves and free blacks, have traditionally been the foremost collectors of African American art. They have also trained black artists, art historians, professors, and museum curators. …

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