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The Souls Grown Deep Foundation will give seven Gee’s Bend quilts to the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, making it the first museum at a historically black college or university to acquire works from the foundation. Souls Grown Deep is the world’s foremost collection of works by artists from the African American South, tracing its roots to the mid-1980s, when Atlanta-based art collector William S. Arnett began to acquire artworks by then largely undiscovered African American artists across nine southeastern states.

Dr. Bernida Webb-Binder, assistant professor of art history and curatorial studies, facilitating a conversation with students in the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art about the current exhibition by Zanele Muholi. The museum will acquire seven Gee’s Bend quilts from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. (Courtesy Spelman College)

The gift to Spelman is part of a group of recently announced acquisition agreements for works from the foundation to be placed at institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The fall 2018 acquisitions include a total of 51 objects by 30 primarily female artists.

An additional sale of a single artwork, Thornton Dial’s 2002 painting Fading at Christie’s on November 16, will support the recently announced multi-year Souls Grown Deep Internship Program, which establishes paid opportunities for undergraduate students of color to work with museums receiving art from the foundation to contribute to the study and exhibition of the artwork.

“Our core mission is to advocate for artists of the African American South represented in our collection,” said Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson, president of the foundation. “These acquisitions will broaden the exposure of works by these important American artists among audiences around the country and provide new opportunities for exhibition, research and other partnerships.”

The Brooklyn Museum will acquire 14 works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, including key works by Thornton Dial; Gee’s Bend quilters Lucy T. Pettway, Ella Mae Irby and Gloria Hoppins; Lonnie Holley; and James “Son Ford” Thomas. The Dallas Museum of Art will acquire seven works, including works by Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett and Nellie Mae Rowe, as well as several examples of Gee’s Bend quilts. The Morgan Library & Museum will acquire 11 drawings by artists including Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Henry Speller, Luster Willis and Purvis Young; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is in the process of finalizing its acquisition of works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, including 12 quilts by Gee’s Bend artists.

In 2014, the Foundation began to develop opportunities for major museums to add works from its collection. In the past four years, SGDF has placed more than 300 objects in 12 institutions, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, High Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Ackland Art Museum and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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