West African art exhibit moves out of NAPACPublished 12:01am Sunday, June 10, 2012
NATCHEZ — The carved wooden faces of west African tribal masks no longer greet NAPAC Museum-goers as they enter part of the Richard N. Wright Exhibit Hall.
The exhibit hall was emptied in April of the 300-piece Finley Collection of west African art, artifacts and American folk art that had been displayed since 2009 in the room adjoining the Wright exhibit.
The collection’s owners, John and Pam Finley, contracted the collection to the city for three years. The Finleys did not renew the contract with the city when it expired early this year.
Pam said it was time for the collection to find another home where people who had never seen the type of art in the collection could experience it.
“We collected the west African art and folk art so that different parts of the world could see it that would not otherwise be exposed to it,” Pam said.
The collection, which features a variety of masks, figures, clothing, textiles, furniture and folk paintings, was moved from the NAPAC Museum to the University of Wyoming in late April.
Darrell White, director of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-African Culture Museum, said he is currently searching for an art collection or exhibit for the hall to replace the Finley Collection.
“I am deeply saddened, as the collection did offer an opportunity for many to see the craftsmanship that depicted the culture of various tribal groups and countries along the cost of west Africa, as well as the American folk art,” White said.
The Finley Collection came to the NAPAC Museum in 2009 from New Mexico, where the Finleys live and were keeping the collection in storage after Hurricane Katrina destroyed Ohr-O’Keefe Museum building where the collection was previously housed.
White said he hopes to find a collection as notable as the Finley Collection within its budget to put in the Wright Exhibit Hall.
In the meantime, White said, the museum will expand its current exhibit to fill the empty space.
“I have been looking since April, but I am not close to finding anything yet,” White said. “Hopefully, we will get a collection of notoriety either of African art or anything else that would provide exposure to the folks in this community of the various art forms of the influences in this community.”