Orange County

UNC’s Ackland to join New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, others in showcasing African-American art

This untitled 1970s piece made of a ham can, wire, and metal fence scrap by Hawkins Bolden is one of 12 significant works of art by African-American artists to be displayed at the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill.
This untitled 1970s piece made of a ham can, wire, and metal fence scrap by Hawkins Bolden is one of 12 significant works of art by African-American artists to be displayed at the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill. UNC News Services

The Ackland Art Museum has been chosen to receive 12 significant works of art by African-American artists, bringing its collection by black artists to 49.

The museum at UNC-Chapel Hill is the only university art museum selected in the first round of giving from the Atlanta, Georgia-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation, which holds the largest and foremost collection of contemporary art from the African-American South.

Other institutions selected to house work from the collection include New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

With this new acquisition, which includes pieces by Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Purvis Young and Leroy Almon, the Ackland’s collection of art by African American artists connected to the Foundation, and to founder William S. Arnett’s personal collection, rises to 49 works. The expanded collection offers the campus and community greater insight into the African-American experience in this region.

“These amazing additions to the Ackland’s collection build upon Carolina’s enduring commitment to promoting scholarship and understanding of an important perspective in the narrative of American art history,” said Chancellor Carol Folt. “The Souls Grown Deep Foundation’s marvelous gifts open another remarkable window at the Ackland for scholars, students and visitors interested in developing a more comprehensive understanding of the marvelous blend that is Southern culture.”

“University museums are the backbone of leading-edge art historical research, and the Ackland is among the best,” said Maxwell Anderson, president of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. “We are very pleased to help build on UNC-Chapel Hill’s longstanding effort to champion the creative traditions embedded in this acquisition, and to deepen the fruitful association between the Museum and the Foundation.”

The only nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting, preserving, exhibiting, and promoting the work of contemporary artists from the African-American South, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation encompasses over 1,200 works by more than 160 artists. In 2015, the Foundation donated an unparalleled collection of 9,300 photographic works – including 35 mm color slide film and video recordings documenting visual artists and their work – to the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“These works of art have already begun to play important roles in teaching at the University,” said Katie Ziglar, director of the Ackland Art Museum. “For example, alumna Laura Bickford first encountered these artists in a seminar at Chapel Hill and has gone on to become the Foundation’s curator, and Elijah Hayward, a doctoral candidate in American studies, collaborated on the Ackland’s recent exhibition of works by Ronald Lockett.”

As with all pieces in the Ackland’s collection, even when not on display the new acquisitions are currently available to University’s faculty, students and the general public, by appointment.

The Ackland plans a full presentation and catalogue of its permanent collection of works of art by artists associated with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation – including works by Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Mary Lee Bendolph, and Nettie Young – in 2020.

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