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Fisk Rejects New Proposal Over Art Collection

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Fisk University on Monday rejected a proposal to keep its Stieglitz art collection on display at the school.

The Nashville university said in a statement that the proposal Friday by the state attorney general is a “scheme which fails to address Fisk’s survival.”

Fisk is asking for court permission to sell a 50 percent share in the collection, donated by the late painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The historically Black university has argued it could face bankruptcy without the $30 million generated by the sale to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. The school has also argued it is a financial burden to maintain and display the 101-piece collection.

State officials said Friday that a donor has come forward with enough money to allow Fisk to keep the collection and display it on campus at no cost to the school.

Fisk said in its statement Monday the proposal “does not address Fisk’s fundamental financial challenge, which is that, without a large infusion of cash, Fisk cannot continue to operate.”

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle last month rejected an earlier plan from Attorney General Bob Cooper that would have relocated the collection to Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

In court documents Friday, Cooper introduced the new proposal, writing that Fisk alumna Carol Creswell-Betsch has established a fund that would pay the maintenance and display costs of the collection, subject to the court’s approval.

The fund is named in honor of Creswell-Betsch’s mother, Pearl Creswell, who was the first curator of the Stieglitz collection, which includes works by Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Marsden Hartley and Diego Rivera as well as O’Keeffe and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, an art promoter and photographer.

The attorney general is involved in the case because his office has jurisdiction over charitable giving in Tennessee. Cooper has argued that allowing Fisk to sell a donated art collection would deter future gifts in the Volunteer State.

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