Five University Art Museums Acquire Artwork from the Collection of Souls Grown Deep
Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership announced that the Blanton Museum of Art (The University of Texas at Austin), Hampton University Museum, Hood Museum of Art (Dartmouth College), Princeton University Art Museum, and RISD Museum have made acquisitions from its collection of artworks by Black artists from the Southern United States, including Mary Lee Bendolph, Sally Mae Pettway Mixon, Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, and Purvis Young.
The Hampton, Hood, Princeton, and RISD museums will also partner with the Foundation to offer paid internships to BIPOC undergraduate students for the Spring 2022 semester, marking the fourth cohort of the Foundation’s Internship Grant Program.
With these acquisitions, Souls Grown Deep has now placed over 500 works by more than 110 artists in more than 30 significant museum collections across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Brooklyn Museum; the Dallas Museum of Art; and others. The Foundation’s Collection Transfer Program is an integral part of its mission to advocate for the increased representation of these artists in the canon of art history by fostering public access to these works and related exhibitions, research, publications, and programming. It also directly supports living artists, including Louisiana Bendolph, Mary Lee Bendolph, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, and Sally Mae Pettway Mixon, with monetary awards through the Foundation’s Resale Royalty Award Program.
“We are extremely proud that works by these exceptional artists are entering some of the country’s most storied college and university art museum collections. Their students will have the opportunity to learn directly from these works not only through exhibitions, but also through new classes and initiatives, as well as the paid internship program, creating new pathways for students to enter and thrive in the museum field,” said Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson, president of Souls Grown Deep.
Raina Lampkins-Fielder, curator of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, added: “For these Black artists of the American South to earn the recognition they deserve for their contributions to American culture, it is critical to give the new generations of leaders the opportunity to explore and understand the history of art through these objects.”
Alongside the new acquisitions, the Hood, Hampton, Princeton, and RISD museums are announced as the fourth cohort of institutions participating in the Souls Grown Deep Foundation’s Internship Grant Program, working with the Foundation to offer paid internships to BIPOC undergraduate students for the Spring 2022 semester. The internship program, founded in 2019, partners with leading museums who have acquired work from Souls Grown Deep to fund paid professional development opportunities in the museum field, creating an on-ramp for students to pursue careers in arts industries. Spanning a variety of museum departments including curatorial, conservation, education, and more, the internships provide financial and professional support, with opportunities for interns to lead curation and public programming through deep engagement with the works acquired by their host institutions.
Past interns have curated or contributed to major exhibitions of this work, including Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South at Philadelphia Museum of Art; Cosmologies from the Tree of Life: Art from the African American South at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; She Knew Where She Was Going: Gee's Bend Quilts and Civil Rights at Baltimore Museum of Art; and In the Presence of Our Ancestors: Southern Perspectives in African American Art at Minneapolis Institute of Art. Two former interns, Starasea Camara (who curated In the Presence of Our Ancestors at Mia) and Akili Davis (who assisted with the curation of Souls Grown Deep at PMA), have since been hired by Souls Grown Deep as Curatorial Associates supporting the Gee’s Bend Cultural Trail, and others have continued at their host institution or pursued other career pathways both within and outside the arts.
Lampkins-Fielder continued, “The interns who have completed our program and those who can now access these works of art at Princeton, RISD, Dartmouth, and UT Austin are set to advance critical conversations in their field, be they curators, art historians, or advocates for the common good.”
More information about the works of art and museums that acquired them from Souls Grown Deep Foundation follows below.
Blanton Museum of Art
The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired two quilts by Arie Pettway and Sally Mae Pettway Mixon from Souls Grown Deep. With the largest public collection in Central Texas, totaling more than 21,000 objects, the Blanton is recognized for its extensive holdings of American modern and contemporary art, including a longstanding commitment to championing Black and female artists. Adding these quilts to its holdings will enable the Blanton to highlight the foundational impact of these works of art on contemporary artists across the United States, from Diedrick Brackens* to Jeffrey Gibson.
These two quilts will be featured in Assembly: New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists, an exhibition slated to open in December 2021 and made possible through the generous funding of an anonymous donor. The Pettway quilts will be in dialogue with major works by Emma Amos, Kevin Beasley, Robert Pruitt, Deborah Roberts, Lorna Simpson, Cauleen Smith, and Nari Ward, among others. A forthcoming publication will also contribute to new scholarship on these works.
Hood Museum of Art
Hood Museum of Art on Dartmouth College’s campus in Hanover, NH, acquired 10 works of art from Souls Grown Deep, including a quilt by Louisiana Bendolph; sculptures by Thornton Dial, Bessie Harvey, Lonnie Holley; and two-dimensional works by Dial, Bessie Harvey, Ronald Lockett, Mary T. Smith, Mose Tolliver, and Purvis Young. These acquisitions, which represent a foundational shift in how the Hood Museum can present the story of 20th century art, will occupy active positions in the Museum’s curatorial program and in its role as a college teaching museum. By pairing these acquisitions with other works from Hood’s collection, the Museum will be able to tell new and contradictory stories about American art history in both its galleries and its classrooms. The acquisitions were featured in the fall 2021 Hood Quarterly, and three works by Thornton Dial are now on display in the exhibition Thornton Dial: The Tiger Cat, which opened in September 2021. One of these, Dial’s mixed-media Heaven and Hell on Earth, is the subject of the museum’s first digital close-looking resource.
Hampton University Museum
Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton, VA, acquired five works from Souls Grown Deep. The gift includes mixed-media paintings by Sam Doyle and Purvis Young as well as three quilts by Polly Bennett, Eddie Lee Pettway Green, and Sadie Bell Nelson. As the oldest African American museum in the United States and one of the first museums in Virginia, the Hampton University Museum is a leading educational and cultural resource of the South. The museum’s collection of African American fine art comprises over 3,100 works spanning two centuries of American history, including significant works from the quilting tradition. These new additions to Hampton’s collection build on the museum’s mission of preserving and promoting the legacy of African American artists, with potential for future scholarship on these works in the International Review of African American Art, which the museum publishes quarterly.
Princeton University Art Museum
The Princeton University Art Museum in Princeton, NJ, acquired 14 works from Souls Grown Deep, including two books by Purvis Young; seven works on paper by Georgia Speller, Henry Speller, John Murray, and Thornton Dial; two sculptures by Dial and Lonnie Holley; two paintings by John Murray; and three quilts by Mary Lee Bendolph, Annie Mae Young, and Henrietta Pettway. Princeton’s global collections—which include more than 112,000 works of art that span 5,000 years of history—are at the heart of its longstanding commitment to serve as a hub for the arts and humanities and as a place of encounter and dialogue for diverse academic, local, national, and international publics. These new acquisitions will allow the Museum to meaningfully expand its efforts to tell a more complete story of American history and artistic practice and to showcase an innovative, collaborative, and moving community of artists. Related University programming has already included the Princeton University Library’s Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture featuring Souls Grown Deep Foundation curator Raina Lampkins-Fielder in Spring 2021 and a feature article in the Fall 2021 issue of the Princeton University Art Museum magazine.
The RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, has acquired two large-scale quilts by Ruth Pettway Mosely and Sally Bennett Jones from Souls Grown Deep. These works represent the first documented examples of quilts by African American artists in the RISD Museum’s collection, allowing the museum to fill a longstanding gap in its extensive textile collection and offer greater breadth of representation in the works available for academic and artistic reference. As a teaching institution connected to one of the country’s foremost art and design schools, with a collection of over 100,000 works, the museum serves as a vital cultural resource for RISD students, artists, scholars, and the Providence community through its educational and public programming.
The Mosely and Jones quilts will be displayed in the museum's recently re-envisioned 20th and 21st century galleries as part of a grouping developed in conversation with artists Diedrick Brackens,* Pia Camil, and Jagdeep Raina. Exhibited alongside works ranging from Chris Ofili’s Black Shunga suite of etchings and Joyce Scott’s Family to Louise Bourgeois' 1963 Still Life and Seminole artist Peggy Jim Osceola’s Stomp Dance Skirt for Green Corn Ceremony, the new acquisitions will create opportunities to address the exclusion of Southern African American women artists from the canon of 20th-century art and design, working towards a more critical and nuanced historical narrative in strong alignment with the museum’s ongoing anti-racism and reinterpretation initiatives.