$300K grant will back Carnegie's exhibit of 'Teenie' Harris collection

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

A $300,000 challenge grant will help the Carnegie Museum of Art maintain and develop its collection of photographs by Charles “Teenie” Harris.

Thursday, the Museum of Art announced that they had received the grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Carnegie has established a steering committee to devise a strategy to raise the required 3-to-1 matching funds amounting to $900,000.

“This project has excited people from the beginning,” said Matt Hackler, director of development for Carnegie Museum of Art. “We want to capitalize on that enthusiasm to do something really different to ensure that this institution and the city continues to be a center for African-American scholarship.”

Hackler says the museum will approach previous corporate, private and foundation donors and try to bring in new support.

Under the terms of the challenge grant, the Carnegie Museum first must raise $225,000 before July 31.

“We have yearly targets that we need to hit,” Hackler said.

The challenge grant expires July 31, 2017.

When additional matching funds are raised, the Carnegie will use the grant to create the position of archivist to maintain and develop the Charles “Teenie” Harris photo archive. The museum was among 15 organizations chosen from a pool of 99 applicants to receive an NEH challenge grant, says Andrea Anderson, senior program officer in the office of challenge grants.

She says the NEH panel was impressed with the Carnegie's proposal.

“They saw it as really important for the history of the 20th-century urban experience, the collection and how it can be used in future humanities programs,” Anderson said. “It's definitely a significant collection.”

From 1936 to 1975, Harris captured African-American life in Pittsburgh as a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation's oldest and most-prestigious black newspapers. He died in 1998.

The museum purchased the collection from the Harris estate in 2001. They've catalogued nearly 60,000 images. Many have been available for public view in an online database, started in 2003 when the museum launched the first of three Teenie Harris Archive Project exhibitions, including “Teenie Harris: Photographer,” which opened last year. During each exhibition, the museum has asked for assistance from the public in identifying the people, places and events in the images.

“The possibilities are wide-open,” curator of fine arts for the Carnegie Museum Louise Lippincott said in a prepared statement. “ ‘Teenie Harris, Photographer' broke new ground for us, and we will continue to find new ways to showcase the work of this remarkable artist.”

William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wloeffler@tribweb.com or 412-320-7986.

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