The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA/the Museum) announced today it has published a digital catalogue documenting a series of five exhibitions and related public programs organized in partnership with Tougaloo College (the College) through the Museum’s Art and Civil Rights Initiative (ACRI).
In 2017, MMA and the College joined creative forces to form ACRI, a multi-layered, three-year partnership to leverage the art collections of both institutions to foster community dialogue about civil rights issues, past and present. Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, ACRI supported work in art practice, collections development, research and scholarship, an exhibition and lecture series, and paid Internships. The topics, artworks, and programs addressed issues of race and racism at the intersection of art and civil rights in Mississippi and beyond.
"Tougaloo College is honored to showcase some of its most respected works and highlight renowned African American artists in its extensive art collections through the launching of this digital catalogue. In line with our continuous engagement in social activism, we are proud to partner with the Mississippi Museum of Art for this meaningful initiative. As we celebrate Black History Month, we honor the college's history and legacy that transcends the stories of many generations exhibited in different art pieces that will inspire our students and scholars," said Carmen J. Walters, Ph.D., President of Tougaloo College.
“We are so pleased to release this digital catalogue,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “The Art and Civil Rights Initiative builds upon the Museum’s tradition of exploring and commemorating important civil rights events through the lenses of the visual arts. In addition to an exceptional art collection, Tougaloo College has a rich history of civil and social activism, and we are honored to have partnered with them on this historic initiative. This catalogue will allow these critically important conversations to continue and serve as a compelling resource for students and scholars.”
"Tougaloo College is proud to own the first modern art collection in Mississippi. This partnership with the Mississippi Museum of Art has been beneficial and enjoyable for the Tougaloo College community. This partnership has provided practical experience through conservation and interpretation for students within all academic divisions of the college,” said Turry Flucker, Director and Chief Curator of the Tougaloo College Art Collection.
Among the artists represented in the series were leading figures whose careers have centered on the African American experience, such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, and Betye Saar. In dialogue with works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Adolph Gottlieb, and Edward Ruscha from the 1960s and 70s, the exhibitions explored a multiplicity of responses to the human condition, identity, quest for equality, Mississippi history, and the right to creative expression.
The catalogue documents the five exhibitions:
- NOW: The Call and Look of Freedom (February 15–May 15, 2018) was inspired by the 1960’s rallying cry for Freedom Now! and the Black Lives Matter movement to explore and challenge conventional notions of African-American activism.
- The Art of Engagement: Meditation on a Movement (October 1–December 15, 2018) positioned artworks created or acquired by the Museum and the College amid the social turbulence of the modern Civil Rights Movement and the decade immediately following.
- A Modernist Vision: The Tradition of Modern Art at Tougaloo College (February 8–December 6, 2019) highlighted some of the most significant work by modern visual artists from the Tougaloo collection and the College’s role in shaping the region’s cultural landscape.
- A Tale of Two Collections (March 16–June 16, 2019) focused on the decades-long relationship between MMA and the College by examining similarities in the collections and the shared commitment to fostering discourse and greater social unity.
- The Prize: Seven Decades of Lyrical Response to the Call for Civil Rights (October 10, 2019–February 9, 2020) visually and vocally revisited the “call” represented in drawings depicting scenes of the summer of 1964, and the “response” in song lyrics ranging from 1956 to 2018. The selection reveals how the quest for social justice inspired greater artistic expression as an act of liberation.
While the exhibitions provided references to the past, the lecture series sparked dialogue about how the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and acts of resistance provided a framework for the ongoing and urgent demand for equity and justice today. The lectures also offered a collective understanding of the influence and impact of social causes on artists and of artists on historical events.
Bradley added, “This initiative was not only about looking backwards at history and the Civil Rights Movement through various artists’ perspectives. Collectively, this series reveals stories of redemption that is desperately needed right now. Art is the ultimate expression of hope—of a shared belief in the power of an individual human eye and hand to craft and articulate a better, more civil society.”
The catalogue can be viewed on the Mississippi Museum of Art website.
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.
About Tougaloo College
Tougaloo College is a private, independent, liberal arts institution, offering undergraduate degrees in twenty-nine majors in the areas of education, the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, and graduate degrees in education. Since its founding in 1869, the College has maintained a rich tradition of excellence, relevance, and influence, creating a legacy of distinction in higher education. For more information about Tougaloo College, visit www.tougaloo.edu.
About the Mississippi Museum of Art
Established in 1911, the Mississippi Museum of Art is dedicated to connecting Mississippi to the world and the power of art to the power of community. The Museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, photography, multimedia works, and sculpture by Mississippi, American, and international artists. The largest art museum in the state, the Mississippi Museum of Art offers a vibrant roster of exhibitions, public programs, artistic and community partnerships, educational initiatives, and opportunities for exchange year-round. Programming is developed inclusively with community involvement to ensure a diversity of voices and perspectives are represented. Located at 380 South Lamar Street in downtown Jackson, the Museum is committed to honesty, equity, and inclusion. The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the City of Jackson and Visit Jackson. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. For more information, visit msmuseumart.org.