Souls Grown Deep: In pursuit of impact

Souls Grown Deep: In pursuit of impact

The art world is at times hermetic and self-referential. Museums, artist-endowed foundations, commercial galleries and art fairs can resemble a never-ending carousel of party-going collectors, curators and dealers. Behind the glamorous facade of the art world are newly urgent challenges. Decades-long resentments about the privileged classes dominating the creative sector have boiled over. And today there is no hiding the fact that the art market – the largest unregulated legal market in the global economy – is a preserve of wealth, speculative investment and vanity.

Museum adds group of exceptional works to renowned holdings

Museum adds group of exceptional works to renowned holdings

The Toledo Museum of Art added more than 30 outstanding and diverse works of art to its collection in June through purchase and gifts. Among the many highlights of the new acquisitions are photographer Imogen Cunningham’s pioneering botanical study “False Hellebore (Glacial Lily)” (1926), Lonnie Holley’s incisive assemblage “Cutting Up Old Film (Don’t Edit the Wrong Thing Out)” (circa 1984), meditative still lifes by the 17th-century French painter Louyse Moillon and an anonymous 19th-century Mexican artist, and “Head of Charlie Parker” (circa 1955), a remarkable sculpture – never before exhibited publicly – by Los Angeles artist Julie Macdonald.

Alabama Quilting Collective Using $250,000 Grant for New Museum Dedicated to a Forgotten Legacy

Alabama Quilting Collective Using $250,000 Grant for New Museum Dedicated to a Forgotten Legacy

Just a few miles away from the famous Gee's Bend Quilters in Boykin, Alabama, lies another Wilcox County community with a rich history of making magic with fabric and thread-though few know its story. The original Freedom Quilting Bee Collective ("The Bee") was established in the rural town of Alberta by Civil Rights activists Francis X Walter and Estelle Witherspoon in 1966. At a time when Black people were being evicted from their homes and losing their jobs for registering to vote, Walter, an Episcopal priest, saw the beautiful quilts hanging on clotheslines as a way for local women to make some much-needed money for their families.

 Souls Grown Deep Funds Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy Efforts to Renovate Historic Building in Alberta, AL

Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership has made a $250,000 grant to the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy, a historical women’s quilting cooperative in Alberta, Alabama. The Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy will use the funds to revitalize the Freedom Quilting Bee’s historic building—which was established in the 1960s and aligned with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights movements—and create the Freedom Quilting Bee Heritage Center and Museum.

Souls Grown Deep Receives $2 Million Grant from MacKenzie Scott

MacKenzie Scott today announced a $2 million grant to Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership as part of her commitment to the Giving Pledge. Souls Grown Deep will put the funds towards its mission to promote Black artists from the American South and to foster economic empowerment and racial and social justice in these artists’ communities.

MacKenzie Scott Just Gave Out $2.7 Billion in Grants, Including Millions to Some of America’s Most Progressive Arts Organizations

MacKenzie Scott Just Gave Out $2.7 Billion in Grants, Including Millions to Some of America’s Most Progressive Arts Organizations

Souls Grown Deep, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and United States Artists were among the recipients of the major donation.

There’s a major new arts philanthropist on the scene. MacKenzie Scott, a novelist who also happens to be the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that she has donated a staggering $2.7 billion to 286 organizations across the country—including many affiliated with the arts, such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and United States Artists. 

Souls Grown Deep Appoints Artist Diedrick Brackens to its Board of Directors

Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership today announced the appointment of contemporary artist Diedrick Brackens (b. 1989, Mexia, TX; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) to its board of directors. Best known for his woven tapestries exploring African American and queer identity, American history, and his own life experiences, Brackens employs techniques from West African weaving, quilting from the American South, and European tapestry-making to create both abstract and figurative works. His appointment continues the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to advocating for the historical and contemporary importance of work created by African American artists from the South and to fostering economic empowerment, racial and social justice, and educational advancement in the communities that gave rise to these artists. 

A Community-Made Partnership for Ethical Fashion Begins in the Rural South

A Community-Made Partnership for Ethical Fashion Begins in the Rural South

The confluence of COVID and the murder of George Floyd by the police upended everything last summer. “I started seeing food lines in America like I had never seen them before, and hearing how many kids were going hungry,” recalls fashion industry veteran Patrick Robinson, who, after creative directorships at Perry Ellis and Paco Rabanne and four years as Gap’s lead designer, founded the activewear line Paskho in 2013 with a core ethical mission. “I built an e-commerce business around a responsible conversation about the environment, but after George Floyd something broke in me, being a Black man,” he tells me over Zoom from his home in Hudson, New York. “Something just exploded in my life and my career. Seeing all these people who were unemployed, I felt just talking about the environment was like talking out of both sides of my mouth.” Sustainability and social equity, he explains, are two sides of the same coin.

Souls Grown Deep Funds Black-Owned, Sustainable Fashion Brand Paskho

Souls Grown Deep Funds Black-Owned, Sustainable Fashion Brand Paskho

The Soul Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership is leading an economic development initiative to benefit the famous quilting community in Gee’s Bend, Ala. The Atlanta-based nonprofit organization, which has facilitated the acquisition of more than 500 works of African-American artists of the South for the collections of some 25 museums across the country is investing $600,000 in Paskho, a socially responsible, Black-owned lifestyle apparel company to establish a localized production pod in Gee’s Bend, an impoverished, isolated region with an average annual income stagnating at $12,000.

The Gee’s Bend Quilters and Copyright

The Gee’s Bend Quilters and Copyright

In 2019, the Copyright Office released a blog entry titled “Copyright Office Staff Finds Inspiration in African American Works.” It featured staff members inspired by poets, people they see every day, and the work of the Gee’s Bend quilters. Staff member Lauren Fasceski had seen a book come through the Copyright Office about the quilters, and she was fascinated by their work, especially a quilt made by Loretta Pettway from jeans and work pants. “It was an interesting story about her quilts,” Lauren told me. “I made my own pattern based on this quilt, because I really liked the pattern and the fact that it was made of old work clothes.”