Monday, July 13, 2009

Tougaloo (I Love that Word)

An enormous Romare Bearden fabric collage commands the living room wall of the Tougaloo College president's home.

Slave Trade by British painter George Morland (1763-1804), fills the space above a fireplace with a dynamic narrative that ignites emotion and conversation.

Those and a couple dozen other works of art scattered throughout the home are only a tiny fraction of the prestigious Tougaloo Art Collections, comprised of African, African American and European American art and artifacts.

It's acclaimed as one of the best collections of its type in the nation. It probably also ranks among the least seen.

Begun in the 1960s with donated works, it's grown to include about 1,500 works, the bulk of which is in storage. It has long lacked an adequate facility for display but one is under construction now.

"Art is so special and so wonderful that it only has value when you can share it with someone," Tougaloo president Beverly Hogan said. "It's a conversation piece, it lifts the spirit, it brings all humankind together in a different kind of way, in fellowship and relationships."

The $7.4 million Bennie G. Thompson Academic Center, with estimated completion in late fall 2010, aims to accomplish all that, plus honor the congressman, a Tougaloo graduate.