The nationally recognized Kinsey Collection of African American Art & History arrives at Florida State University Panama City in April 2022.
“We are honored to have an exhibit of this caliber coming to FSU Panama City,” said Dean Randy Hanna. “This collection not only documents American history but also the tremendous contribution Black artists have made to American culture.”
The traveling exhibit will feature historical artifacts, artwork and documents — from a bust of Frederick Douglass to a letter signed by Malcolm X — in the Holley Academic Center at FSU Panama City from Friday, April 1, 2022, through Sunday, July 3.
“The story is not a Black story; it’s an American story,” said Bernard Kinsey, whose collection with his wife, Shirley, spans more than 40 years. “We are really proud of our work and believe it’s the kind of work America needs right now.”
Florida natives Bernard and Shirley Kinsey met at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and after marrying in 1967, they set a goal of traveling to 100 different countries during their lifetime. The Kinsey Collection project began with the couple’s desire to instill an appreciation for the arts from cultures throughout the world in their son, Khalil, and support up-and-coming artists. But it was their son’s family history assignment for school when they realized they could only trace their family tree back four generations, which led to their uncovering or “rediscovering” of the African American story that had gone untold.
“Really, we feel this is a human story on the human experience and connection, illuminating the story not known,” said Khalil Kinsey, chief operating officer and curator of the collection.
The collection tells part of the American story through African American paintings, manuscripts, rare books, and letters. Rare, primary source historical objects and artifacts date from 1595 to the present day, and art created by African American artists dates to 1865.
“In 2005, the LA Times wrote an article, ‘The Walls Do Talk,’ that garnered attention from the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, because of the balance of art and historic narrative,” Khalil said. “Other museums took notice. We share information in a unifying way. The collection has been in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and was the first of its kind to show in Disney World’s Epcot. We did our first international show in Hong Kong.”
During the past 15 years as a traveling exhibit, the Kinsey Collection has been seen by more than 15 million people. The exhibit has opened at museums such as the California African American Museum in LA, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.
The Kinseys recently shared their journey during the 33rd opening of the exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum in Tacoma, Washington, for a segment on NBC’s Today Show that aired Monday, Aug. 23.
The Florida Department of Education has adopted the Kinsey Collection as the basis for the instruction of 3.6 million students on African American History. The family also published an accompanying book, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey,” that features items on display in the exhibit as well as other items of interest in their collection.
“We have a saying,” said Bernard Kinsey, who retired as a Xerox executive 30 years ago, “‘God, grant me a gift to give to someone else who needs it more than me.’ The Kinsey Collection embodies it — how people who had so little did so much.”
The Panama City exhibition is being sponsored in part by another family-owned business — Panama City Toyota, which provided a $25,000 gift to help bring the exhibit to the community.
“A mutual friend put us together for the initial meeting and it resonated with me,” said Greg Finley, dealer principal of Panama City Toyota. Finley said he sees this as an opportunity to stand against ambivalence in the tense racial climate of recent years. “I thought, ‘What can I do in the vast universe of problems?’ This collection served to answer that partially, if not fully.”
The community is invited to get involved in the cultural celebration of American history during the three-month-long exhibit of the Kinsey Collection at FSU Panama City. Speakers, artists and vendors are encouraged to be part of the inclusive celebration highlighting African Americans’ contributions, and area schools are invited to tour the exhibit.
Robert Gates, general manager at Panama City Toyota said, “When we start talking about it, it’s so easy to get excited.”
A Zoom event with the Kinseys is planned for November on the FSU Panama City campus in advance of the April exhibit opening.
“Because we so firmly believe in the impact that this collection will have, we are personally invested through our lectureship fund,” said Mary Beth Lovingood, director of development at FSU Panama City. “This is a great opportunity for other interested investors like Panama City Toyota to share with our community an appreciation for American history and art.”
For sponsorship opportunities, contact Mary Beth Lovingood at 850-445-3250 or email@example.com. To get involved with the event, organizations and schools can contact Irvin Clark at 850-770-2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Kinsey Collection, visit www.thekinseycollection.com.