After years of wrangling in court, Fisk will be able to sell a half share of their Alfred Stieglitz Art Collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., for $30 million.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals denied the state attorney general’s most recent appeal of the sharing agreement. Fisk president Hazel O’Leary called that decision a “life extension” for the cash-strapped university.
“I’m delighted with this decision,” O’Leary said. “It provides much needed cash, it provides investment to endowment to help with scholarships for our extraordinary students and in essence, pulls us out of a spiral of very bad news that has attended this case for seven years.”
Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. filed his appeal in January, claiming there was no legal basis to approve the share based on wishes of artist Georgia O'Keefe, who gifted the collection to the university.
The decision is crucial for Fisk, which announced in December that they would need to raise more than $8 million by June to keep the school operating. Fisk is currently under probation by the Southern Accreditation of Colleges and Schools — the last step before losing accreditation.
But O’Leary said the approval of the sharing agreement could also bring good news when the school learns it’s SACS accreditation fate in December.
“It’s just the kind of thing that SACS would like to see happen,” O’Leary said. “It goes right into our asset base which is one of the measures of financial stability.”
The $30 million endowment infusion could more than triple Fisk’s current endowment of $12.1 million, according to tax records.
Under the proposed sharing plan, Fisk would rotate out the Stieglitz Collection, which was donated by artist Georgia O’Keefe, with Crystal Bridges Museum to allow students and museum-goers equal opportunity to study the art.
Fisk still has to appear in Davidson County Chancery Court to hash out a few details before the deal is finalized. Specifically, Fisk has to prove that it can afford to maintain the collection while it’s on campus. O’Leary said she expects the Fisk Board of Trustees to approve funds for that purpose.