Mississippi Museum of Art and Tougaloo College release Art and Civil Rights Initiative digital catalogue
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Mississippi Museum of Art and Tougaloo College release Art and Civil Rights Initiative digital catalogue
Romare Bearden (1911-1988), The Train, 1975. etching, 29.875 x 22 in. Bequest of Sara Virginia Jones. Collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art. 1991.214.

JACKSON, MISS.- The Mississippi Museum of Art announced today it has published a digital catalogue documenting a series of five exhibitions and related public programs organized in partnership with Tougaloo College through the Museum’s Art and Civil Rights Initiative.

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.

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