The official signing of the contract with the High Museum of Art in Atlanta signified the finalization of a nationwide tour that will send the college’s historical Amistad murals to several museums across the country after being restored at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center.
The signing also signified the culmination of a three-year process that TC President Billy C. Hawkins, his administration, and the High Museum began towards at the beginning of Hawkins’ tenure.
“We are gathered here in this place at this time to celebrate Talladega College, Alabama’s oldest private historically black liberal arts college, founded in 1867,” said Casandra Blassingame, a 1992 TC alumna and TC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement.
“And to pay tribute to an artist, Hale Aspacio Woodruff, whose hands were blessed by God with the ability to tell the story of our people.”
The ceremony proved to be about more than the signing of a contract as TC’s administration provided guests with a detailed history of the murals and paid tribute to Woodruff, the artist who was commissioned to paint them.
The “Amistad Murals” are depicted in three scenes “The Revolt,” “The Court Scene,” and “Back to Africa.”
The other three panels depict an Underground Railroad scene, a scene of the first day of registration at Swayne Hall, and the construction of Savery Library.
Woodruff was a world-renowned artist who in 1937 taught at Atlanta University, currently known as Clark-Atlanta University, and then came to Talladega College to teach classes in the humanities department.
For Fannie Ella Frazier Hicklin, 92, who is a 1939 TC alumna, Wednesday’s ceremony proved to be a flashback of the original unveiling of the murals she witnessed as a student during the dedication of the newly constructed Savery Library on April 15,1939.
“I am deeply moved to be here today,” Frazier said. “I know there are many alumni who feel as I do.”
Philip Verre, the chief operating officer of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, ensured everyone the utmost care would be taken in the detachment, transportation, restoration, and exhibition of the Amistad murals.
Verre was present to sign the contract with TC President Billy C. Hawkins and TC Board of Trustees Chairman Harry Coaxum.
Verre said as part of the contract, in addition to the restoration project and national tour, the High Museum will also partner with TC for internship and lecture opportunities for students, and free admission to the museum for students and staff.
“It was clear that it was not only about the conservation and restoration of these murals, it was also about education and the education of the student body here at Talladega College,” Verre said.
The murals will be detached from Savery Library in early March and then transported to the Art Conservation Center where they will be cleaned and re-stretched during a period of eight to 12 months.
After the restoration process, they will be on display at the High Museum from June 2, 2012, to Sept. 2, 2012.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. has been the second museum scheduled for the traveling exhibit. The contract states that the murals will be on display there from Oct. 12, 2012 to Feb. 13, 2013.
Wednesday’s ceremony drew guests from near and far, including state Sen. Jerry Fielding, Talladega City Council President Horace Patterson, Talladega County Commissioner Kelvin Cunningham, Executive Director of the Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce Mack Ferguson, and Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind President Terry Graham.
“As the 20th president of Talladega College, I am so proud to be providing the leadership for this incredible institution,” Hawkins said.
“We have come a long way over the past three years and still have a lot of work to do.”
Much of that work includes raising $13 million for the construction of an art museum on the campus that would house the murals and the art department once they return to TC.
The restoration and tour will take a total of five years to complete, giving TC’s administration the pertinent task of fundraising before the murals are set to return to the campus.