All six murals were painted by world-renowned artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff and have been hanging in TC’s Savery Library since 1939.
The “Amistad Murals” are depicted in three scenes “The Revolt,” “The Court Scene,” and “Back to Africa.”
The other three panels depict an Underground Railroad scene, a scene of the first day of registration at Swayne Hall, and the building of Savery Library.
“We have a national treasure here in Talladega,” said Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College.
After being insured and appraised two years ago, all six panels were found to be worth a total of $40 million. The three Amistad murals were worth $20 million and the other three murals were also worth $20 million.
Discussion had been going on for about two and a half years as to what to do with the murals.
At one point, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Birmingham Museum of Art were the two museums negotiating with TC about displaying the murals.
“We would have loved to keep it in Alabama but we didn’t feel we were getting what we needed from the Birmingham Museum of Art,” Hawkins said.
Through grant writing and funding from sponsors like American Express, restoration will begin in January of 2011 at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center, and will continue for eight to 12 months. The murals will then be on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from June 2, 2012 to Sept. 2, 2012, according to the contract.
Blueprints have already been planned for the display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and other museums throughout the country have been contacted about exhibiting the murals.
After the murals are restored and displayed in Atlanta, they will be sent on an exhibition tour around the country including cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. as of Friday has been the second museum scheduled for the traveling exhibit. The contract states that the murals will be on display there from Oct. 12, 2012 to Feb. 13, 2013.
TC and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta are charging these museums a flat rate for displaying the murals and are currently working out an agreeable price tag to put on it.
There has also been discussion about the High Museum of Art in Atlanta publishing a catalogue for the exhibition with history and essays behind the College and the murals.
“That’s when they’ll be digging into the archives and fining out what all the history is about,” Hawkins said.
The contract also states that each museum that signs on to the traveling exhibit will be asked to make a $25,000 contribution to the College.
As royalties from the flat fee are finalized, Hawkins plans to have the contract ironed out and finally signed by the end of next week.
Hawkins met with representatives from Macy’s earlier this week in New York. He and TC Board Member Edward Goldberg, who is also senior vice president of Macy’s external affairs, have spearheaded the possible sponsorship with Macy’s that could include Macy’s hosting a reception for the exhibit in each of the cities it travels to.
TC is also getting in touch with large broadcast media outlets like CNN and PBS to film a documentary about the murals and the traveling exhibition.
After the restoration and the tour, the murals will not return to Savery Library.
“My vision is that we build a between $10 to $15 million art museum on campus that would house the murals as well as our art department,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also sees this potential art museum as a tourist attraction in the near future, attracting art and history lovers from all over the country and maybe even the world.
If the traveling exhibit is a success, TC and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta could take the show internationally.
“Once these murals get the type of attention they deserve on the show, there’s been talk of international travel if this tour goes as well as we feel it will,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said that the traveling exhibit could open up many doors for TC, including internships for students who could have hands-on experience learning about art at the Atlanta Art Conservation Center.
“We want this whole thing to be a learning experience for the students and for the public,” Hawkins said. “The reward is big not just for the college but also big for the state and the community of Talladega.”
The murals will serve as the centerpiece of Hawkins’ $20 to $30 million capital campaign which includes raising monies for more scholarships for students, TC’s endowment, construction efforts on campus and new facilities that could potentially develop and enhance curriculum, and for unrestricted operational use.
“This tour is not only going to elevate the name of Talladega College but elevate the name of the city of Talladega,” Hawkins said. “The first thing they’re going to ask about those murals is ‘where did they come from?’”