Fisk University sold half of it’s ownership rights in the Alfred Stieglitz collection of valuable art and photographs for $30 million to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., according to an agreement filed Aug. 2.
Under the agreement, approved by the Davidson County (Tenn.) Chancery Court, the university received $30 million, according to the school’s information office.
The money goes a long way to helping Fisk, one of the oldest Black higher education institutions, resolve long-standing financial troubles by allowing it to monetize a prized asset, the 101-piece Alfred Stiegletz collection of art and photographs.
The school faced a legal challenge by the state of Tennessee and a group of Fisk alumni over its plan to use the collection, donated by artist Georgia O’Keefe, widow of Stiegletz, a famed photographer and art promoter, to raise $30 million.
“The agreement to share ownership with Crystal Bridges had been the subject of protracted litigation, which was finally resolved when the Tennessee Court of Appeals approved the agreement on November 29, 2011, and the Tennessee Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear an appeal of that decision,” said a statement released by the university Aug. 3.
According to the university statement’s breakdown of the use of the proceeds, $1.6 million will go to settle bank obligations, $22.4 million is to be applied to its endowment and $5.8 million spent to cover legal costs.
Fisk will also use some of the proceeds to add $100,000 to an escrow fund to cover its share of the costs of restoration and other work needed to stabilize the collection’s pieces for travel between Nashville and Crystal Bridges in Arkansas. Fisk created a special $3.9 million endowment at The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to pay the costs associated with the care and exhibition of the collection, the Fisk statement said.
“The Stieglitz Collection is not lost to Nashville, but is saved to be exhibited here for two of every four years. Fisk will, probably for the first time, have the financial ability and professional expertise available at Crystal Bridges to do everything necessary and appropriate to care for and exhibit the Collection,” Fisk President Hazel O’Leary said in the statement.
“Fisk will remain as Nashville’s oldest university, which has and will continue to provide a nationally recognized educational experience for its students and also to make an important contribution to Nashville’s culture and history,” she said. O’Leary announced in February she is stepping down from the helm of the school at the end of the year.