The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) has been awarded a $275,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant was given in support of the MMA’s reinstallation of its permanent collection and the creation of accompanying public programming and publications that focus on the art and stories of Mississippi. The reinstalled permanent collection is scheduled to open on Saturday, June 29, 2019.

MMA’s collection of more than 5,500 objects has particular strength in American art from circa 1865 to the present day and comprises paintings, prints and drawings, textiles, photographs, sculpture, and multi-media works. Prominent artists represented in the collection include Benny Andrews, Radcliffe Bailey, Romare Bearden, Albert Bierstadt, Elizabeth Catlett, Jeffrey Gibson, Robert Henri, Titus Kaphar, Glenn Ligon, Deborah Luster, Georgia O’Keeffe, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Thomas Sully, Hank Willis Thomas, Andy Warhol, James McNeil Whistler, and Hale Woodruff. Mississippi artists include the state’s first native-born professional artist, James Tooley, Jr., along with other natives (or native Mississippians) including Richmond Barthé, McArthur Binion, Dusti Bongé, G. Ruger Donoho, William R. Hollingsworth, Jr., Marie Hull, Sam Gilliam, Gwendolyn A. Magee, George Ohr, Noah Saterstrom, and Eudora Welty.

“With this generous grant, we have the opportunity to reinvigorate the narrative power of our permanent collection. Art has this amazing potential to open up new dialogues that will allow us to delve into both historical and contemporary issues that affect Mississippians and the nation at large,” said MMA’s Curator of American Art and reinstallation project director Elizabeth Abston.

In August, NEH announced the funding of 218 projects across the United States totaling $43.1 million in support of vital research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. Three institutions in Mississippi were recipients of grants during NEH’s third and final round of funding for the fiscal year 2018: MMA, Delta State University, and the Historic DeSoto Foundation.

“This particular exhibition matters. Across the country, [NEH] has helped shape great art collections that include undeniably essential works, but those collections haven’t often told everybody’s story. What I really like, and what our staff liked about this exhibition is that [MMA] will use its permanent collection to tell the story of Mississippi in a way that is not only fascinating, but complete with the stories of others.” said NEH Chairman Jon Peede.

From 2007 to 2017, the permanent collection exhibition, entitled The Mississippi Story, showcased Mississippi art and artists in a variety of media through four themes: Land, People, Daily Life, and Exporting Mississippi Culture. The exhibition was de-installed for MMA’s acclaimed bicentennial exhibition, Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, that was on view from December 9, 2017, until July 8, 2018. During preparations for the bicentennial exhibition and throughout its presentation, MMA engaged in unvarnished explorations of Mississippi’s complicated history and identity and established its Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE). CAPE aims to bring nationally recognized artists, community members, and other partners together to examine the issues of equity, culture, and the state’s history through contemporary art. The reimagining and reinstallation of the permanent collection will demonstrably reflect MMA’s deepened understanding of Mississippi’s identity and its place in the contemporary world.
“The Mississippi Museum of Art strives to live responsibly in its role as a presenter of objects and stories that reveal truths about Mississippi’s history, people, and places,” said Museum Director Betsy Bradley. “We are eager to seize the opportunity the NEH’s gift has granted us to redesign our permanent collection exhibition following such an enriching period of reflection and learning.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at neh.gov.

The Mississippi Museum of Art, in Jackson, is the largest art museum in the state. The Mississippi Art Association, established in 1911, was the precursor to the current Museum, founded in 1978 as a community-supported institution. The Museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, photography, multimedia works, and sculpture by Mississippi, American, and international artists. The Museum offers year-round educational programs for both children and adults. The Museum has thirty-one affiliate museums across the state that benefit from the loan of artworks and traveling exhibitions organized by the Museum, ensuring that those who cannot visit Jackson can still enjoy the state’s rich cultural history.

The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the City of Jackson and Visit Jackson. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The Museum is located at 380 South Lamar Street in downtown Jackson. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Monday. Additional information about the Mississippi Museum of Art is available at msmuseumart.org

(Left to Right) MMA Board of Trustees President Mayo Flynt, Mississippi Humanities Council Executive Director Stuart Rockoff, MMA Director Betsy Bradley, and NEH Chairman Jon Peede at a reception held in Peede’s honor at the Mississippi Museum of Art on Monday, September 10, 2018, during his visit to Jackson for the unveiling of the first marker in the Mississippi Writers Trail at the Eudora Welty House and Garden.