NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A judge has rejected a plan by State Attorney General Bob Cooper to display Fisk's Stieglitz Art Collection at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.
On Tuesday evening, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled the proposal did not adequately address Fisk's long term needs, which is that Fisk wants to sell the collection to help with their monetary issues.
"The best the Attorney General has been able to do is propose a short-term solution. A temporary fix, however, is insufficient. The parties have been in court over the Collection long enough. Finality and certainty are needed," Hobbs wrote in her opinion.
The rejected plan from the attorney general would have allowed the Tennessee Arts Commission to take "temporary possession" of the collection, donated to the University by the late Georgia O'Keeffe. The commission would contract with the Frist Center for the Visual Arts to "maintain and display" the collection, which would be open to the public free of charge.
Hobbs instead proposed a modified agreement with the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas to display the collection half of the year. Fisk's original plan to split the art collection with the museum fifty-fifty, but Hobbs rejected it due to the original conditions of the donation.
"Having the Collection in Nashville only half the time and reducing Fisk's ownership to a half is not a perfect solution, but it does keep Fisk afloat, thereby maintaining and holding true to the law's recognition of the donor's deliberate selection of Fisk for the art," she wrote. "When the donor specified she did not want the collection sold and that she wanted the collection in Nashville 100 percent of the time, Fisk was not on the brink of closing."
On Tuesday morning, Fisk University students took to the streets Tuesday to fight for their school. A couple hundred students gathered outside of the First Center on Broadway to protest the attorney general's plan to display the artwork there.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority was scheduled to vote on the plan to move the art collection to the Frist, but members decided to defer any decisions until after the judge decides what should be done with the art.
The university's president Hazel O'Leary applauded that decision.
"If you're looking for a nuance to pick up from this meeting, I would have you concentrate on the comments of the two commissioners who indicated that they were not certain that this matter should not be approved no matter when it comes back before this board," O'Leary told NewsChannel 5.
The Attorney General's Office said they are reviewing the order.