Art and Activism at Tougaloo College Opening Saturday at the Figge Art Museum
October 2, 2023


Art and Activism at Tougaloo College Opening Saturday at the Figge Art Museum

Davenport, Iowa (October 2, 2023) –The Figge Art Museum is pleased to announce Art and Activism at Tougaloo College, a traveling exhibition co-organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA) and Tougaloo College opening Saturday, October 7. 

Art and Activism at Tougaloo College traces the birth and development of a significant and distinctive collection that has shaped the college’s efforts to advance the cause for civil rights for the past sixty years. On view at the Figge will be 33 artworks from the collection in a range of media by both European and African American artists such as David Driskell, Francis Picabia, Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas, Pablo Picasso, Richard Mayhew, Charles White and Hale Woodruff.

In the spring of 1963, the New York Art Committee for Tougaloo College established Mississippi’s first collection of modern art at Tougaloo, a small liberal arts college located north of Jackson. The Committee, led by art historian Dore Ashton and made up of New York-based artists, was formed to provide access to the fine arts for Tougaloo students and the surrounding area. The intention was to create “an interracial oasis in which the fine arts are the focus and magnet,” which made the college a unique hub of European and New York School modernism in the region.

That same year, Tougaloo College received national attention when an integrated group of Tougaloo students and faculty participated in the lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth’s in downtown Jackson. The event was covered by media outlets across the country, shining a spotlight on the racial tensions in the Deep South and serving as an important catalyst for the causes of civil rights. This recognition shed light on Tougaloo’s ongoing role as a center of solidarity in the fight for equality.

The exhibition explores the interconnections between the collection and the college’s significance in the civil rights movement. Works by artists such as Romare Bearden and David Driskell reflecting the Black experience are displayed alongside the works of artists such as Thomas Sills and Jeanne Reynal, who incorporated the cause for equality throughout their careers. Together with some of the Tougaloo’s earliest acquisitions of contemporary avant-garde art, the works included in this exhibition provide a visual history of the collection’s development and its intersection with the ongoing struggle for civil rights.

“After having been a supporter of the college’s art acquisitions in 1964, the American Federation of Arts is thrilled to once again collaborate with Tougaloo College to bring renewed attention to the collection’s history and its significant engagement with racial equality and civil rights,” noted AFA Director and CEO Pauline Forlenza (formerly Willis). “Audiences from across the country will be drawn to contemplate this complex American collection established as an ‘interracial oasis’ to foster positive change amid immense racial conflict.”

“The founding of the art collection at Tougaloo College sits at the intersection of two major American art and social movements, civil rights and the New York School,” explained curator Turry M. Flucker. “Both movements landed on the world stage with fierce intensity and chartered a new course that required self-reflection and a serious examination of a rapidly changing society. Since the Collections’ founding in 1963 and their growth after 1967, what has become increasingly clear for me is that a full understanding of the people, the history and the development of the Tougaloo College Art Collections and their connection to the 1950s and the 1960s art scene in New York City is needed now more than ever. Like America itself, the history of the art at Tougaloo is a fascinating yet complicated narrative that is replete with a group of diverse individuals who believed that art could be the catalyst for societal change.”

Comprising more than 30 artworks, the exhibition gives insight into a complex American collection established at the intersections of modern art and social justice.

“The Figge Art Museum is honored to have an exhibition that demonstrates the transformative power of art in service of social change and the enduring legacy of Tougaloo College in the fight for equality,” said Figge Executive Director Michelle Hargrave. “We invite everyone in the community to join us in exploring this remarkable chapter of history through the lens of art and activism.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored and edited by Turry M. Flucker, published by Hirmer. The publication features a historic overview of the college, its innovative collecting mission, and its critical role in the fight for civil rights.

Art and Activism at Tougaloo College is locally sponsored by Carolyn Levine & Leonard Kallio Trust, Carolyn and Joseph Martin, Doris and Victor Day Foundation. The media sponsor is the Quad-City Times. The exhibition will be on view through January 28, 2024.

Turry M. Flucker, is the Vice President of Collections and Partnerships at the Terra Foundation for American Art. He is a graduate of Tougaloo College and the former Director and Curator of the Tougaloo College Art Collections.

Exhibition Credit:
This exhibition is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Tougaloo College. Major support for the national tour and exhibition catalogue is provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc., Henry Luce Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support for the catalogue is provided by Pass Christian Books, Elizabeth "Buffy" Easton, Sarah Van Anden, Julie McGee, and Tori and Marques Phillips.

About the American Federation of Arts:
The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing scholarly exhibition catalogues, developing innovative educational programs, and fostering a better understanding among nations through the international exchange of art.

About Tougaloo College and the Tougaloo College Art Collections:
Established in 1869, Tougaloo College prepares its students to become lifelong learners who are committed to leadership and service in a global society through its diverse undergraduate and graduate programs. The college is accessible to all persons and is an independent, liberal arts college, affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Tougaloo College Art Collections were established in 1963, by the New York Art Committee for Tougaloo College to serve the teaching needs of Tougaloo College and the cultural needs of the broader community. The Committee consisted of Dore Ashton, Fritz Bultman, Jeanne Bultman, Jeanne Reynal, Thomas Sills, Peter Selz, Warren Marr II, Hermine Tworkov, Adja Yunkers and Porter A. McCray. Led by Professor Ronald O. Schnell, a robust program of acquisitions was enacted over the years with notable contributions by Fritz Bultman and Jeanne Reynal, as well as with the important stewardship of artists David C. Driskell and Romare Bearden. Today Tougaloo holds more than 1,500 works divided into three focus areas: arts of the United States, Europe, and Africa and Oceania.

Companion Programs:
Exhibition Celebration & Curator Talk
Thursday, October 12 | 5 p.m. Member Reception | 6:30 p.m. Public Talk| FREE Event
Hear from Turry M. Flucker, former Director and Curator of the Tougaloo College Art Collections and current Vice President of Collections and Partnerships at the Terra Foundation for American Art

Empowerment Echoed: Responding to Art and Activist at Tougaloo College
Saturday, November 18 | 7:30 p.m. | FREE Event
In collaboration with TMBC at the Lincoln Resource Center, the Figge will host a series of art responses presented by community leaders in response to Art and Activism at Tourgaloo College.

About the Figge Art Museum:
The Figge Art Museum is dedicated to bringing art and people together. Located on the Mississippi River in downtown Davenport at 225 West Second Street, the Figge is the premier art exhibition and education facility between Chicago and Des Moines. Its landmark glass building, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, is home to one of the Midwest’s finest art collections and presents world-class exhibitions, art classes, lectures, and special events that attract visitors of all ages. Museum hours are 10 a.m.­­-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Thursdays; and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are not required, but can be made at or by calling 563-345-6632. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with ID and $4 children ages 4-12. Admission is free to Figge members and institutional members and to all on Thursday evenings. You can become a member for as little as $50 by visiting the Figge website. To contact the museum, please call 563.326.7804, or visit


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