For Fisk, Art-Selling is Not Fundraising

Secret art sale is classic example of shortsighted HBCU leadership in face of financial crisis.

Asbury Park South — Florine Stettheimer

I really don’t know how to say this. My alma mater has, yet again broken my heart. And right under my nose, too. While I was focused on opposing the sale of the prized, and possibly invaluable Alfred Stieglitz art collection, alumna, former secretary of energy, and then-President Hazel O’Leary sold two other paintings owned by Fisk University because the university was “under duress.”

By now, I should be used to it. I publicly opposed the art sale in writing back then, seemingly, to no effect. Now, with almost two decades invested in her, Fisk has broken my heart more times than I care to remember.

There was a time I’d take on every detractor. The was a time my phone would blow up any and every time something related to her ‘got out’ or worse, was about to. Believe it or not, there was a time when I was so worried about her I couldn’t sleep at night. I lived in the constant fear that she would be forced to close her doors, that her art and archives would be sold off to the highest bidders, that the Jubilee Singers would no longer have a home, and that rooms in Jubilee Hall would be turned into condominiums — as once satirically suggested by the late Tennessean reporter Gail Kerr.

But no more. Y’all ain’t gonna steal my joy. Y’all ain’t gonna have me more worried about Fisk than most of the folk on her payroll. Y’all ain’t gonna be sending nasty notes to my Facebook inbox as though it’s my job to operate alumni groups highlighting her good works.

What y’all need to do is inquire about how the New York Times knows more about the university’s assets — or in this case, former assets — than we do. And while you’re at it, lets address this cognitive dissonance. Please sort out why you’re more angry with me for washing this ‘dirty laundry’ in public — even though one cannot get more public than the Times — than you are with our alumna secret art-seller, and former president.

Art-dealing is not fund-raising. When someone sells off a piece of my alma mater, they need to know that I will call them out. I will not, however, make myself sick over it.

My record of loving Fisk in word, in deed, and in what I have left unsaid, is well-established. I have receipts.

So, now that we’ve sold everything but the kitchen sink, what are we gonna do?