Should schools be allowed to sell donated art to raise money? We saw this earlier with Brandeis University's
Rose Museum and now in Tennessee, Fisk University is interested in selling off a share of its collection of art donated by artist Georgia O'Keeffe. The university wants to sell a 50 percent share of the collection for $30 million to the Crystal Bridges Museum
in Bentonville, Arkansas. Crystal Bridges is the museum being built by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. O'Keeffe donated the 101-piece collection of paintings, photographs, drawings and sculptures from her late husband, noted photographer Alfred Stieglitz to the school in 1949. The collection is housed in the Carl Van Vechten
gallery and includes works by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, O'Keeffe, Demuth, Hartley, Dove and Walkowitz.
Lawyers for the state of Tennessee are trying to block the sale but Fisk University President Hazel O'Leary has testified that the school may be forced to close without the sale. The school believes the cash could lead to more donations helping Fisk raise the $150 million needed for its endowment. The state argued that the art was donated for students and local citizens and not to raise money and that the sale could actually discourage donations because it proves the school doesn't value the gifts it is given. The school has been monitored by an accreditation agency for its poor financial condition and has struggled to house and maintain the artwork.