Comprehensive survey of African American history makes statewide debut at Auburn museum

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On Aug. 23, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University became the first venue in Alabama to present “The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection” when it opened its fall exhibitions to the public.

One of the most comprehensive surveys of African American history outside the Smithsonian Institution, the exhibition is on view through Dec. 30 and available with free admission to the museum. Auburn’s installation features more than 100 objects, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, rare books, letters and manuscripts that provide new perspectives on the nation’s history and culture.

Organized by the Bernard and Shirley Kinsey Foundation for Arts and Education and KBK Enterprises Inc., the award-winning global engagement represents more than 50 years of collecting by the organization’s namesakes. The family’s mission is to raise awareness and celebrate African Americans’ achievements dating back to 1595.

Representing intersections of art and history, the exhibition includes bills of sale, advertisements and papers documenting the slave trade; hand-colored tintypes from the Civil War era; art and literature from the Harlem Renaissance; and objects from the civil rights movement. The history of African Americans in art is charted through works by Grafton Tyler Brown, Bisa Butler, Elizabeth Catlett, Robert S. Duncanson, Alma Thomas, Charles White and Hale Woodruff.

“Inherently baked into the contents of the collection and the way that we share it is the human experience and telling the stories of human beings with the same hopes, wants, dreams, loves and ultimately humanity as anyone else—but have often, throughout the lens of American history—been denied those very human things,” said Khalil Kinsey, general manager and chief curator of collection and exhibitions.

Kinsey stressed that the exhibition is a retrospective of American history, noting the many significant contributions by African Americans.

“Given the unique opportunities for a university art museum to support scholarship, The Kinsey Collection offers a window into our past and our future,” said Cindi Malinick, executive director of the museum. “Layer Auburn’s location, this relevant and engaging exhibition will spark important examination and dialogue.”

Located on Auburn’s campus, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art is the cultural heart of an Alabama public research institution serving students, faculty and the Southeast. The university art collection includes mid-20th century American modernism, Mexican modernism, contemporary prints and photographs, Audubon etchings, works on paper depicting the South, ceramics and visionary art.

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