Fisk University began as Fisk Free Colored School, one of several schools founded for freedmen during the Union military occupation of Nashville. Fisk was the first historically black college or university to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the first HBCU to be granted a charter for the establishment of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. more>>
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Fisk University is a school deep in both tradition and debt.
A dwindling endowment has administrators scrambling to find a way out of a financial crisis for the Nashville school.
Administrators have reached an agreement on paintings they've been trying to sell.
The university has been battling in court for nearly two years regarding paintings donated to the school more than 50 years ago.
If all goes well, the sale of the artwork could help the school out of financial trouble.
Fisk was established in 1866for former slaves.
"We have a tremendous track record of producing leaders," said Ken West, vice president of communications for the school. "Fisk produces more African Americans who go on to earn their Ph.D.s in the natural sciences than any school in the nation."
However, in recent years, the institution has received more attention for its financial status than its academic prowess.
"It is very possible that the university, as we know it, could cease to exist," West said.
That is, unless the school can sell two paintings by the late Georgia O'Keeffe called the "Radiator Building - Night, New York" and Marsden Hartley's "Painting No. 3."
Both were donated in 1949 as part of the Stieglitz Collection.
Fisk reached an agreement with the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum that would allow the school to profit from the sale of the paintings.
Under the plan, Fisk would receive $7.5 million from the museum for the "Radiator Building." The university would then be free to cash in on the other painting.
This would end years of court wrangling with the museum and quite possibly lead Fisk back to firm financial footing.
This is not a done deal, however.
Attorneys for the university and the museum will appear before a judge at the end of August.
A judge will then decide if the settlement will be approved.
Fisk has an accreditation hearing coming up soon and they need the money to prove they're a financially viable institution.
This isn't the first attempt at a settlement between the two parties. In April, state Attorney General Bob Cooper refused to approve a similar agreement.