Fisk says art sale vital to university’s survival

Fisk says art sale vital to university's survival (Image 1)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Fisk President Hazel O'Leary told a Davidson County Chancery Court judge Thursday that the university is “likely to close” without a $30 million art sharing deal but would not be specific when the closure could take place.

The testimony came during the second day of the Fisk art trial.

The financially-strapped university is fighting to sell a 50 percent stake in a renowned modern art collection donated to Fisk half a century ago by artist Georgia O'Keeffe from the estate of her late husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

The state of Tennessee is trying to block the deal, arguing that O'Keefe donated the prized collection for the benefit of Fisk students and local citizens, not to use it to leverage money.

O'Leary said the $30 million deal she hopes to cut with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas is the university's only hope of digging out of its financial hole.

Founded by a Walmart heiress, the museum would get half ownership in the Stieglitz collection.

Attorneys for the state of Tennessee spent much of Thursday trying to show Fisk's financial condition is not so dire, and there are alternatives to selling the art.

While some see an end to the cash strapped school, students News Two talked to, are confident the school will remain.

“Yes it's rough times right now but we're a school that has always overcome, and managed to rise above all of our obstacles and so we think we'll do that again,” student Mikhail Miller said.

His hope is that help will come from those who realize the contribution the school is making to Nashville and higher education.

Student Maurice Jacobs agrees.

“I'm not nervous about Fisk at all,” Jacobs said. “Fisk has been around for a really long time, and they've been through a lot of stuff and I think this is just another obstacle and we'll definitely overcome this crises.”

Fisk, founded in 1866, is the oldest university in Nashville and one of the oldest historically black colleges in the nation.

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