To Conserve a Legacy II: American Art from the Howard University Collection is an ancillary exhibition of the national touring exhibition To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, currently on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art here in Washington, D.C. The collections of the six institutions featured in the exhibition – Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Howard University, North Carolina Central University, and Tuskegee University – represent some of the most significant examples of an indispensable heritage. This presentation of nineteenth and twentieth century African American, Native American, and other American art provides an essential opportunity to see the work of African American artists in the context of the work of their peers.
Conceived in 1995 as a cooperative venture to locate, research, conserve, catalogue, and exhibit works from the six participating HBCUs, To Conserve a Legacy was organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. The conservation of works was carried out by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williamstown, Massachusetts. As the consortium focused on a consideration of desired venues for the To Conserve a Legacy exhibition, the concept of creating partnership venues surfaced, an idea many liked, for it suggested a ready mechanism for creating more racially mixed audiences for the exhibition, ones that would hopefully make concerted efforts to visit institutions beyond their normal patterns of attendance. The HBCUs would co-present the exhibition with major institutions in their geographical areas, realizing that their facilities would not be able to accommodate fully the large scale exhibition being planned. Because the Howard University collection was richly endowed with American art treasures not selected by the curatorial team, it was determined that the Gallery would install an additional exhibition of ancillary works from the University’s permanent collection while To Conserve a Legacy, in its entirety, was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In selecting the works for To Conserve a Legacy II: American Art from the Howard University Collection, we have provided a reflection of the artists in the Corcoran exhibition, and the works selected address one or more of the six themes defined.