Fisk University announced today that it has filed a notice with the Davidson County Chancery Court that it will appeal the ruling of the Court concerning Fisk’s request to enter into a sharing arrangement with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas for Fisk’s Stieglitz Art Collection. On November 3, 2010 the Chancery Court ruled that Fisk was entitled to enter into the arrangement under which Crystal Bridges would acquire an undivided one-half interest in the Collection for a payment to Fisk of $30 million. The Chancellor also ruled that Fisk could spend only $10 million of the $30 million at its discretion. The Court required that the remaining $20 million be placed in an independent endowment fund. Under the terms of the endowment, Fisk would only be allowed to use approximately $1.0 million income from the endowment to support the display, preservation and art education regarding the Stieglitz Collection.
Fisk President Hazel R. O’Leary stated:
“This restriction effectively confiscates proceeds from the approved sharing agreement and places Fisk in a more risky position than before. During the trial, Fisk presented evidence that the annual direct cost to maintain the art gallery where the Collection is housed is approximately $130,000. The Court has directed that Fisk dedicate approximately $1.0 million of income earned annually from the $20 million endowment for the support of the Collection exclusively. It is inconceivable to decide that $870,000 should be used annually to care for and educate the public about the Collection. As a result, any excess earnings not required for those purposes are unavailable to the University for educational purposes, to attract high quality scholars and researchers to the faculty, to provide scholarships to its talented and underserved students, or to maintain the many historic buildings which require constant repairs on our campus.”
Chairman of the Board Rob Norton stated:
“The order will result in an excessive endowment for the art collection while ignoring the need to endow Fisk’s outstanding academic programs for which it has received national recognition. Simply stated, the $20 million that the Chancellor directed to an endowment to support the Stieglitz Collection and art education is excessive against the articulated needs of the University. While the $10 million directed to Fisk for its general use is grossly inadequate to put the University on a solid long term financial footing. Under the current ruling, the excessive overfunding of the Stieglitz Collection would starve the University’s core educational mission. This leaves the University no choice but to appeal the Chancellor’s decision.”
Fisk officials further stated that it has always been the University’s intent that an adequate amount of the proceeds be set aside for the proper display, maintenance and conservation of the art. In 2008, Fisk expended approximately $1.0 million to install security, fire prevention, lighting and climate control in the Van Vechten Gallery. Under the sharing agreement, such costs would be shared by Fisk and the Crystal Bridges Museum. Alice Walton, the major donor to the museum, has contractually agreed with Fisk to establish a $1.0 million endowment to be used for the same purpose when the sharing agreement is executed.