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Viewers get peek at African-American art

It was a standing-room-only event for Tampa's introduction toAfrican-American art.

Although the pieces weren't actually there, 150 of Tampa's elite business owners, civic leaders and educators got a chance to view several slides and three lithographs of one of the oldest African-American art collections in the country.

The Barnett-Aden collection is housed at the History Through Art Corp. headquarters in Boca Raton.

Last year, the Florida Endowment Fund for Higher Education based in Tampa put one-third down on the $6-million purchase price for the 142-piece collection. The money came from private donors.

Ultimately, the Endowment Fund plans to build a $10-million gallery, possibly near the new convention center on the waterfront in downtown Tampa, with the support of the business community. Officials hope to have the gallery built in time for the Super Bowl next January.

The fund is a non-profit foundation created by the state Legislature. It provides financial help for black doctoral students and faculty members at Florida colleges doing research or study.

Composed of American paintings, sculptures and some African artwork, the collection dates to the 1850s. Artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Henry O. Tanner are represented.

Thursday's introduction over breakfast at the NCNB National Bank building at 400 N Ashley Drive was a first look for a number of people in the area.

"We wanted to give them a flavor of what's in the collection," said Diane Greene, program development coordinator for the foundation.

The original collector, James V. Herring, a Howard University art

professor, gave the collection to Adolphus Ealey in 1969 upon Herring's death. For years Ealey restored it. He remained director of the collection when it was placed with the History Through Art Corp. NCNB and the Tampa Business Committee for the Arts sponsored the breakfast with the foundation.

Tribble said the foundation will issue prints, Christmas cards and note cards of the collection to help pay for the paintings and the new gallery.

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